Fire Victims Get Guidance, Warnings About Contractors

Warning about unlicensed contractors

Dozens of homeowners affected by the devastating Valley Fire in San Diego's East County may be wondering how to move forward.

On Friday, the county kicked off a program to protect those homeowners.

Investigators from the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, the California Department of Insurance and the California Contractors State Licensing Board office went around badly burned areas in Lyons Valley, Japatul and Lawson Valley posting signs to alert residents about how to protect themselves from unlicensed contractors.

"You've heard the horror stories about people that are tens of thousands of dollars into contracts that never come into fruition," DA investigator John Hays said. "They either never start or finish. It doesn't even require that at all. There's actually a minimum number, a dollar amount that they have to put forth, and those contractors will be there to start that project. The worse thing that can happen is the victims of fire become victims, again."

Investigators also went door-to-door in an effort to contact and inform residents.

"Today we're together in a joint effort to go out and talk to the victims of the recent Valley Fire … and any contractors that may already be on site working with those people, to make sure that the victims of the fire know their rights and we give them any assistance and information we can, as well as checking with the contractors that may be on site to make sure they are legitimately on site and that they have a license and they're in a legitimate legal contract with those homeowners," Hays said.

Hays said there a lot of different scams out there for homeowners should be aware of.

"From water testing all the way out to how much money they need to act put forth to start a contract, and the information that we give them today -- and what we offer them is website information, phone number information to find out just what that may be," Hays said. "It's far less than you may think."

The DA's office is urging homeowners to check with the state to determine if a contractor's license is valid, much the same that they might do before visiting a doctor or dentist.

Photos: Valley Fire Scorches 17,345 Acres Near Alpine

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