LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Residents in Lackawanna near the old Bethlehem Steel site are starting to assess the damage from the fire, and it could evolve into an insurance nightmare, as homeowners learn what is covered and what is not.
Those living in the adjacent Bethlehem Park neighborhood have been inundated with smoke, soot, debris, and questionable air quality. Who pays for their cleanup? Executives in the insurance industry say property losses should be covered by their homeowners insurance.
Bethlehem Steel is long gone, but a number of small businesses were set up in those hulking buildings left behind. Dr. Bob’s Storage was one of those businesses, but except for a sign posted near Lakeshore Rd. there is nothing left of the storage facility.
Dr. Bob Hornberger, an optometrist by profession, own’s Dr. Bob’s. He set up the storage business inside the old steel plant, containing more than 90 cars, trucks, RV’s, and boats, but now it is a total loss.
While Hornberger has his own casualty insurance to cover his losses, his customers had to get their own–a standard practice for self-storage companies.
“They sign a waiver when they bring in their property. What is happening now is I am getting contacted by all the insurance companies, and they want to go on site, but it is on lockdown at this point in time.”
Hornberger’s job of assessing his losses is a little easier because he kept his business records in a large fireproof vault which kept his papers intact, despite heat that was so intense, fire officials kept Bob away for 5 days before he could get to his files.
“The walls were 16” walls, and they had a fire door, so there must have been a reason, back in the day, that they had this room protected from fire.”
Dr. Bob vowed to do everything he can to help his customers recover from their losses, “They pay upfront for 6 months, and what I am going to do is, I am going to go through all my expenses and refund as much as I can to all my clients. I am also going to do whatever I can to help them process their insurance claims.”
Insurance experts also said families who were evacuated in those Lackawanna neighborhoods, if they had to find other accommodations, such as a hotel, their homeowners insurance should also cover your stay and your meals.
A spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute wrote, “You are covered for damage to the structure of your home and your personal belongings, as well as for additional living expense.”
The spokesperson also wrote, “You are also covered for smoke, ash and water damage.” So make sure you read over your policy, and hold onto your receipts.