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El Paso County Opens Disaster Assistance Center

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Insurance companies set up mobile offices at the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center (credit: CBS)

Insurance companies set up mobile offices at the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center (credit: CBS)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – El Paso County has opened a disaster assistance center for residents who have been affected by the Black Forest Fire.

The center is located at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road and will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice.

“We’re going to keep it open until we feel it’s necessary to close,” said County Commissioner Daryl Glenn.

Glenn said the center will be staffed with public health officials and representatives from insurance companies.

“We want to make sure that if you’ve been affected by this fire, please go by there because you would be surprised by the information you can learn,” Glenn said.

Those displaced can find also find counseling, child care and vouchers for food and clothing, as well as help finding temporary housing.

The vacancy rate for apartments in Colorado Springs right now is 6 percent, so housing is in short supply.

“You never think that it’s going to happen to you,” said Charlie and Joan Vairin.

The couple’s home was one of the first to burn.

“We know it’s totaled,” said Joan.

What they don’t know for sure is how much of what they lost is covered by insurance.

“We had not done an inventory. We are having to go and I should have, we talked about it, we just didn’t so we are trying mentally to go room by room,” said Joan.

Carol Walker with the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said knowing your contents takes a step out of an already painful process.

“This is a teachable moment for everyone that now is the time to get out those video cameras and take photographs,” said Walker. “People need to be talking to their insurance agent about how much insurance do I have? What are my limits? Could I repair my home in today’s dollars?”

What many homeowners may not know is that they need a replacement cost policy to insure their home at today’s dollars. Under a new state law insurers are required to offer homeowners that policy as well as at least two years of living expenses.

Homeowners are also urged to get written appraisals and make sure their policy covers the replacement cost of those items.

Glenn said homeowners in the pre-evacuation areas that are in place due to the fire still have a chance to take photos of the belongings in their home. He said that can be a very helpful tool for insured homeowners if they end up suffering losses in a wildfire.

Officials at the center said if you want to help victims, donate or volunteer at the Care and Share Food Bank. They are particularly in need of diapers and baby formula.

Wildfire Resources

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

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