Flagstaff family stuck living in trailer after Pipeline Fire as they battle with insurance

Flagstaff couple live in a trailer for more while they battle with Traveler's insurance on how to handle toxins in their home.
Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 5:58 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 2, 2023 at 7:29 AM MST
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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A year and a half after the Pipeline Fire burned more than 26,000 acres east of Flagstaff, some homes are starting to rebuild. Others are still stuck in insurance nightmares.

Rob and Elise Wilson built their dream home in 2008, but they can’t live in it. Instead, they have been living in this 400-square trailer for more than 560 days while they battle with insurance on how to handle toxins in their home. “It’s super frustrating looking at a house that almost looks habitable and having to live in a trailer instead,” Rob said.

The Wilson’s home stood strong during the 2022 Pipeline Fire thanks to its fire-resistant insulation while other homes around them burned. “We felt fortunate that our house had withstood the fire which is exactly what we had designed it to do,” Rob said.

But the same fireproof material that saved their house actually caused other problems they weren’t expecting. “We had concerns after the fire because of the amount of heat our house had suffered and it was recommended we have an industrial hygiene company do a study,” Rob said. “The study was done and what they found was 6 different chemicals that exceeded the OCIA 8 hours limit for exposure and we had to immediately evacuate our house.”

Since July of 2021, they’ve been living in the trailer while their house sits just as they left it, and now they said they’re paying double for insurance. Rob said in that time, he’s been going back and forth with his insurance company, Travelers, but they haven’t been able to come to an agreement on what to do next. “I’ve watched my neighbor’s homes that burned down be completely rebuilt, and they’re moving back in while I’m still living in a fifth-wheel trailer,” he said.

So, he’s looking into taking legal action with a lawyer who specializes in insurance cases. “There’s no exclusion in that policy for this situation,” attorney Mike Poli said. “It may not be typical, but in the same sense, if the police should respond if the house just burnt to the ground, it should equally respond to this: it’s property damage.”

Arizona’s Family reached out to Travelers, who said, “We are working with our customer to resolve the claim as quickly as possible.” However, Rob said he just wanted to go home. “Honor your commitment to us the way you expect us to honor it to you with our annual payments. We pay you with the expectation you’ll restore us to our pre-loss conditions. That’s all I’m asking.”

Rob said if he does decide to take legal action and win, that will take a large chunk of his claim, so it’s a lose-lose situation, but he hopes this will get other people to look at their insurance and make sure they are properly covered.

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