That's where George Kehrer
stepped in. Kehrer, the executive director of a nonprofit group called CARe ---- Community Assisting Recovery ---- knew all too well what the victims were facing.He
wife, Patricia Pricer, lost their home in the 1991 Oakland fire.Even as the couple faced their own troubles, Kehrer
, a lawyer and general contractor, began conducting seminars for other fire victims to help decipher confusing insurance paperwork.He
continued the work in 1993, traveling south to Malibu and Laguna Beach to help after wildfires there, and he
showed up to aid survivors of the Northridge earthquake in 1994.Shortly after the quake, Kehrer and a group of volunteers formed CARe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims recover from disasters.
"Disasters really do take a long time to recover from, contrary to what a lot of people think," Kehrer
said."First of all, the insurance paperwork takes a long time."Kehrer
came to San Diego right after the October wildfires, leaving Arizona fire victims who were still in the process of recovering from the deadly fires that ravaged that state last June.Since Kehrer
has offered free assistance to at least 500 people in the San Diego area filling out their insurance claims and understanding their rights.
This month, Kehrer
has 10 free workshops scheduled around the county.
"The issues that crop up are amazing," Kehrer
said many fire victims that were insured are just beginning to realize they didn't have enough insurance.He
said insurance companies convince people they have enough coverage because the company doesn't want to provide more protection.He
said victims also do not fully understand their rights.As an example, Kehrer
said insurance carriers will pay for pets to stay in kennels, if a family is forced to stay in a rental that doesn't allow pets.CARe
has been conducting meetings in the area since the fires.Kehrer
gives a power point presentation that he
calls "Insurance 101."He
said the class helps people understand their policy.He
then provides one-hour consultations to victims and personally evaluates their situations.All services are free of charge.
"We review their situation, where they are in the process, answer their questions and go through the documentation if necessary," Kehrer
Perlingieri said Kehrer
was one of the only people to provide concrete help in dealing with insurance companies.
..."George is an asset to the county," said Perlingieri, a retired San Diego State University professor and author.
Unfortunately, everything (George) has said has come true."
would be in San Diego County for at least two years.He
said the rebuilding process is lengthy ---- within two years after the Oakland fire only 25 percent of the homes destroyed were rebuilt or in the process of being rebuilt.
Being a fire survivor, Kehrer
has a unique understanding of what so many county residents are facing.He
past becomes very significant when working with disaster victims.
"I always thought that anyone could help anyone and that's true, but there is a certain understanding between fire survivors," Kehrer
said."Unless you have experienced the complete destruction of your home it's hard to have the empathy available to understand the incredible vacuum that is left after everything one has turns into ash."
For information on CARe
, call Kehrer
at (858) 527-0210 or toll free at (800) 748-9791.