‘We don’t have insurance’: Cautionary tale from Fort McMurray homeowner

Click to play video: 'Fort McMurray family shares difficulty coping with wildfire aftermath without insurance'
Fort McMurray family shares difficulty coping with wildfire aftermath without insurance
WATCH ABOVE: A Fort McMurray family is sharing a difficult tale hoping to warn others about the importance of home insurance. The Kuncio family fled the flames only to realize they had no insurance in the aftermath. Sarah Kraus reports – Jun 25, 2016

The Kuncio family lost everything in the Fort McMurray wildfire and without insurance, they won’t be getting anything replaced. Now they’re speaking out in hopes of preventing others from making the same mistake.

Stefanie May had been texting her husband as the flames approached their Beacon Hill home on May 3.

Clayton Kuncio was working out of town and started rushing home – but his wife and son couldn’t wait any longer. With flames engulfing trees in their neighbourhood, they gathered as much as they could and left.

“She grabbed three passports, two external hard drives, our dog and the clothes on {their} backs. That’s literally all she was able to get,” said Kuncio.

He would later join them in a safe place, south of the burning city.

That night, the family’s home security system started sending notifications to Kuncio’s phone.

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“There’s something wrong with the front door sensor. Then, five minutes later, another notification said there’s something wrong with the side door sensor.”

It was their first indication their home was burning.

The next day, they called their insurance company to get the ball rolling on a claim. The conversation didn’t go as planned.

Kuncio knew something was wrong when he looked at the tears streaming down May’s face.

“We don’t have insurance,” she told him.

After paying premiums through the same company for 20 years, the couple accidentally missed their annual renewal last August.

“They did the minimum requirement by law – that they’re required to do, which is send a registered letter,” Kuncio explained.

He said he did sign for the letter, but lost it in the shuffle before opening it.

The father admits it was his mistake – one that proved to be costly.

“We lost everything we worked for. We lost everything we’d saved,” he said through tears. “Things like his baby stuff, my dog’s ashes, yearbooks, family heirlooms. It’s all gone.”

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Last week they went back to sift through the rubble of their old home – a box with a dozen charred pieces of pottery are all that they were able to salvage.

A Seattle Seahawks football was also found, covered in ash. It needed a good wash, but now it looks good as new.

“The football survived,” said nine-year-old Cohan. “Me and my dad used to throw it in the backyard.”

The family wants others to learn from their misfortune.

“We did not walk in there and cancel. We did not phone in and cancel, we did not go to another insurer. We did not make a conscious decision not to have home insurance. We never would have.”

They recommend having automatic withdrawals on insurance premiums.

“It’s better to pay the extra couple hundred dollars by doing it monthly or quarterly, because you pay for peace of mind that it’s automatically renewing,” Kuncio said.

He also suggests asking about how the insurance company will contact you in the event of a problem, like a missed payment.

“Ask them, do they reach out? Do they call you? Do they email you? Do they make every attempt to make sure you know your house insurance is expired.”

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For now, the Kuncio’s are stuck in limbo, staying in their parents’ duplex in Edmonton until they figure out how to get back on their feet.

“At the end of the day, you come back to – where are we going to live? What are we going to do? I can’t answer those questions.”

The Kirby Sewell Band is hosting a concert fundraiser for the family on Canada Day at 9 p.m. at Shakers Roadhouse in Edmonton.

A similar fundraiser will happen at the Royal Canadian Legion in Calgary on August 5 and a Go Fund Me page has also been established.

The family says there’s one thing they know for sure, despite so much uncertainty. They will go back to Fort McMurray.


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