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JJ SAYS: It’s not over yet for fire victims

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Time out for a quick fire update.

Once again, I don’t mean to bore people with a personal account of a tragedy that affected so many others much more than it did me, but I can speak for many through my experience.

Last week, six months after that interesting night, I reached a milestone when I moved into a new permanent home. Being a weekly reporter (journalist seems awfully pompous for what I do), a home to me means a mobile home, which is fine. They are nice and low maintenance. I have some fire-related details to clear up, but the move pretty much marked the end of the recovery road for me — I hope.

What is important to note is that it isn’t over for many, if not most who haven’t been nearly as fortunate as I’ve been. For them, six months of being a nomad is just a start. They face many more long days of phone calls, paperwork, numbers, names and questions and apprehension. It gets to the point where when an agent from an insurance company, government agency or some other entity calls, you automatically reply with name, birth date, last four digits of your Social Security number and appropriate case number.

Each person is different, but all face the same bureaucracy. They all quickly learn that each insurance agency (it doesn’t really matter the company) have 37 (conservative estimate) different departments, each handling a different aspect of their claim and none seemingly understanding what the other is doing.

I compounded my problem by mistakingly applying for a Small Business Association (SBA) loan that is available for residential disaster victims. The loan featured a super-attractive interest rate and no down payment. The problem is timing. I received written approval for my loan in late December. I received the paperwork that would allow me to submit a housing proposal last week — one day before I closed escrow on my new home purchased using a conventional loan.

As each day rolls by, you encounter an unforeseen annoyance. For example, I was invited to a semi-formal gathering, but declined the invitation when I realized I no longer owned even a business suit. It is those kind of little irritations that continue to dog all fire victims.

For many, the law of supply and demand has them boxed in on all sides. In my case, the home I just purchased cost exactly four times what I paid for the vanished home and is, honestly, older and not as nice.

After living for two months in a motor home, my sister and brother-in-law, who lost their home on that same dark October night, stuffed their pick-up full of survival gear and headed east in a reverse migration from the way their parents came during the depression years. They settled in Oklahoma where they bought a beautiful three-bedroom home on 6 acres with a pond for fishing. Total price — $220,000.

It is that way for so many, pay exorbitant prices to stay or leave the place you have called home.

Those who choose to rebuild have their own challenges, with lack of builders, lack of infrastructure, environmental concerns and much more.

Whatever path you take there is that omnipresent bureaucracy.

Stay tuned. As Yogi Berra would say if he was living in our politically correct time: “The weight-challenged lady ain’t sung yet.”

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)