Florida is a subtropical paradise and everything…everything grows here. That has resulted in nonindigenous species flourishing and, sometimes, causing a litany of problems with native vegetation and an actual increase in fire hazard. One of the measures used to deal with this problem is the “controlled burn”. The emphasis should be placed on the word “controlled” and Florida Statutes dedicates and entire chapter to the regulation of this activity.
In Eastpoint, Florida, citizens are trying to put their lives back together in the aftermath of a “controlled burn” initiated by a private company, Wildlands Services, that quickly raged out of control destroying over 36 homes, more than 800 acres, in this small panhandle community. Not far removed from the recent tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon (“BP Oil Spill”), devastation struck again this past weekend as the wildfire, which began only a few hundred acres away from the Eastpoint neighborhood, ransacked and destroyed most of the properties in the small community.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putman announced just yesterday that the devastating burn was caused by the “controlled burn” turned wildfire. John Polous, a local oysterman, who lost 14 boats, his home, and several vehicles in the blaze, was interviewed by a member of the AP. Polous remarked:
“All I could hear was nothing but like a freight train, because it was blowing and it was burning… I walked out in the backyard and saw it coming, and that was it. Within a matter of minutes, it was gone, everything I own,” he said. “Hopefully something will happen and we can get paid for it. And I hope everybody that lost a house out here gets paid.”
There are many more people, just like Polous, who lost everything they owned. If you or someone you know was affected by this wildfire, you should know what your legal options are. Searcy Denney has extensive experience handling claims against utilities companies and other private corporations that have caused massive destruction due to negligence. We know how devastating it is to lose your home, your business, and all of your personal property. Unfortunately, even if you have insurance, many times that insurance does not reimburse you for all of your losses.
Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner announced the fire was the result of an out of control burn started by Wildlands Service, Inc. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had contracted with the company for a “controlled” burn in Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area. That burn had begun a week before getting out of control; destroying the property and lives of the innocent residents of Franklin County.
We have already spoken with victims of the fire that find themselves homeless, with insufficient insurance coverage, or that they are afraid their insurance will not cover all their losses. When a tragedy like this wildfire strikes, it can be absolutely devastating, and the losses can be enormous. People often find themselves having to deal with insurance companies and try to sort out what their legal rights are or are not. All of this is happening during one of the most stressful and desperate times in their lives.
Victims must go on with their day-to-day lives, while getting answers:
- Who is at fault? Was someone negligent?
- Will my insurance make me whole again? Will it fully compensate me for the loss of my home and its contents?
- Where do I live while my home is damaged? Who pays for those living expenses while I am still required to pay my mortgage and other expenses?
- What should I do now and what am I required to do now to comply with my insurance policy and successfully seek full reimbursement?
- What contractual and legal responsibilities do I have?
At Searcy Denney, we have spent decades guiding clients through tragedy and protecting their legal rights. We seek a full recovery for their losses and try to make devastating tragedies as easy to cope with as possible.
These Franklin County victims deserve immediate help and should be entitled to reimbursement for:
- Loss of their family homes
- Loss of their personal property and landscaping
- Loss and destruction of commercial structures
- Cost of evacuation and temporary living costs
- The value of annoyance and discomfort, loss of earnings and personal injury.
Retaining the right legal counsel for these kinds of claims can often be extremely important. Not everyone who suffered losses from this tragic Franklin County, Florida fire will require the assistance of a lawyer, but we hope that residents and commercial property owners will see the assistance of legal professionals to protect their rights when those rights are in question or being threatened.
At Searcy Denney, we can help you understand what your legal options are and assist in maximizing your recovery of damages from this tragic wildfire.