By Wilson Walker

SANTA ROSA (KPIX) — A critical deadline for wildfire victims is approaching but many of those eligible for the help may not know it.

“I come out every day just to see what progress is being made on the home,” says Stan Commerford of Santa Rosa. “There’s something here that draws me out. I can’t tell you what it is but you just have to go back and look.”

When San Commerford lost his home of 23 years it was loss on top of much greater loss. The fire came six months after Joyce, his wife of 56 years, died of cancer.

“This is home,” he says. “And I’m just waiting to get back in here.”

The process of rebuilding has been a slow one. In fact, he recently ran out of time.

“The two years was up and so State Farm was the insurance company and they cut me off,” Commerford explained. “So now I’m spending $3,000 a month for a living and rental furniture.” He still hopes for more assistance from a claim he filed against PG&E.

“I believe that there’s going to be $28 billion available in bankruptcy court,” said Murray Cockerill, an attorney with Legal Aid of Sonoma County.

PG&E’s bankruptcy plan includes a fund for Northern California wildfire victims and it applies to a wide range of people, not just those who lost their homes.

“They weren’t able to stay in their apartment for weeks on end,” Cockerill said. “Or if they had to hire a hotel stay and it wasn’t compensated by FEMA.”

Legal Aid of Sonoma County is encouraging all those who think they might have a claim to file by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline.

“There is no cost,” Cockerill said. “If you would like to hire an attorney we encourage you to do that also, however, it is not required to have an attorney.”

“I hope to be in in March,” Commerford said of his partially-constructed home. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”

He says he will be OK, with or without help from the PG&E bankruptcy fund. He’s just looking forward to getting back home.

“Life is for the living,” Commerford said. “So you have to have a positive attitude and continue on and that’s what I’ve done.”

It’s estimated that 60 percent of those eligible to file claims have not done so. That number is much higher for homeowners. The low participation is driven by the large number of people who incurred smaller costs and who don’t realize they could share in the settlement.

PG&E’s bankruptcy process is expected to move ahead with court hearings early next year.

WEBLINK:

PG&E Wildfire Victims File Claims at: www.pgefireinfo.com

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