PHOENIX -- If you've ever experienced a house fire, you know the stress involved when it comes to getting things fixed and back in order, but for a Phoenix woman her problem has been compounded by people she thought were supposed to help her.
Fires happen all too often across the Valley. In Phoenix alone, firefighters responded to more than 13,000 of them in just one year. They're deadly, destructive and full of heartache.
Sharon Womble is describing the day after Thanksgiving when she woke up in the middle of the night to find part of her house in flames. Womble said she did all she could to get her roommate, Kate Deaube, and their pets out safely.
"The fire was pretty minor," Deaube said. "Like I said, it was contained right here in the kitchen to the hallway area. There was a lot of smoke coming into the house."
After firefighters extinguished the flames, Womble and Deaube spent the night somewhere else but returned the next day to find a woman at the house, claiming she was there to help.
"Her business card had a fire department on it and she said she worked for the insurance company," Deaube said.
"She comes up and hands us her card and explains who she is and I thought she meant she was with my insurance company because she had all this knowledge of everything," Womble said.
Womble said she allowed the woman to contact a company called Dry Guys Restoration, which responded and said they could take care of everything including removing and repairing burned furniture left behind by the blaze.
Believing they were all working for her insurance company, Womble signed a contract with Dry Guys to remove, clean and restore her belongings.
"I didn't even read it I was so upset at the time," Womble said.
After everything was out of the house, Womble said Dry Guys Restoration reportedly told her their service came with a cost.
"They're charging me $16,000 to pack up my stuff and take it," she said.
Not only that, Womble said Dry Guys is also charging her $1,700 a month to store her stuff. Womble said she called her insurance company regarding the bill which said it had no connection to Dry Guys or that mystery woman who showed up unannounced at Womble’s house.
"I go, 'Well, I thought she was with the insurance company,' and he goes, 'No, I've never heard of her before,'" Womble said.
The owner of Dry Guys Restoration tells us he's located at a corner building in Mesa but when we went there, the business was locked up. However on the phone, the owner of Dry Guys Restoration told us that mystery woman is basically a third party salesperson who is paid a commission to locate business for Dry Guys.
He also sent us an email saying say he is willing to lower the bill.
"We learned after the holiday weekend that while Mrs. Womble did have insurance she was grossly underinsured. We explained to Sharon and her insurance company that we would reduce our invoice by an amount sufficient to provide insurance coverage for items that were destroyed in the fire."
Womble said it's a learning lesson -- one that's going to cost her financially.
"And they let me believe that all this was covered by the insurance and I didn't find out till the insurance man came out that my coverage only had a limit of how much they were going to pay," she said.
3 On Your Side hasn’t been told how much that invoice will be reduced, but we'll do a follow-up when we can. Below is the full statement from Dry Guys Restoration:
"We were hired by Sharon Womble over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend to do an emergency pack out of her home. The home was uninhabitable due to a fire and Mrs. Womble was gravely concerned that her neighbors would ransack the contents of her home if they were left unattended overnight. Mrs. Womble reviewed and signed our authorization form, which authorized us to bill her insurance company for our services. We packed out the contents and billed the insurance company per our signed agreement with Mrs. Womble. We learned after the holiday weekend that while Mrs. Womble did have insurance she was grossly underinsured. We explained to Sharon and her insurance company that we would reduce our invoice by an amount sufficient to provide insurance coverage for items that were destroyed in the fire. Sharon expressed to us that she was happy with our gesture. She also told us that it was not she but her neighbors that initiated contact with 3 on your side. It is unclear if these are the same neighbors who Sharon was worried would steal and vandalize her property."
Dry Guys Restoration