Some fire victims having trouble processing claims with Guard

Save Story
Leer en espaƱol

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

HERRIMAN -- Jackie Burns is vexed by two harsh ironies.

One is that the fire that destroyed her home and a number of vehicles on the three acres that surround it went out of its way to bypass a 1970s Ford Granada, the one car she would like to be rid of.

The other irony is the red tape she and husband Robert are being asked to wade through to get damage claims processed, all while hearing of an increasing number of neighbors who received quick cash from the Army to pay for smoke damage from the fire that started on Camp Williams two weeks ago.


The National Guard quickly accepted responsibility for the fire, sparked by machine gun training, and has paid more than $2 million in claims, almost all of that for smoke damage. But there are plenty of accusations that some homeowners took unfair advantage of the expedited claims process and walked away with cash they then used to pay for vacations or new furniture.

Those accusations are funneling through cleanup and restoration contractors who are claiming the National Guard is changing the way it is handling claims, a charge the Guard denies.

Jackie and Robert Burns believe the Guard may be overcorrecting and now asking them to produce proof for claims items their neighbors weren't required to provide.

One example is the request to prove the condition of some of the old cars on their property that were restoration projects, some of which they held titles for but were not running when they acquired them and therefore never registered in their name with the state.

"They also wanted us to prove what condition the cars were in, but they're now just burned-out shells," Jackie Burns said.

She is not as upset with the Guard as she is with homeowners whose exaggerated claims might have prompted the Guard's processing center to overreact and now be too strident.

"That really made me angry," Jackie Burns said., "because people talking about buying furniture and new carpet and going to Disneyland. I'd love to be in Disneyland right now."

Only the foundation of the Burns' home, a tractor and a nearby gazebo remain. The fire that destroyed their house was so hot the aluminum was melted on the adjacent trailer the couple lived in when they first bought their Herriman property 34 years ago. Only a few iron yard ornaments remained intact around the house, and that old Ford the fire didn't want.

The National Guard said the Burns family will be fairly compensated for their losses and that its claims processes have not changed. Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Hank McIntire said all three of the families whose homes were destroyed have a military liaison working with them.

Jackie Burns said the military liaison the Guard provided has helped where he can, and that they continue to work through the insurance company that carries their homeowners policy. A contractor has already moved 12 tons of debris from their property and will soon bulldoze the rest to clear the land so they can rebuild.

Right now, a big challenge is not having the stamina to deal with the litany of bureaucracy involved with getting their lives back: applying for duplicates of birth certificates, waiting at the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles to document ownership of the vehicles that were destroyed, and verifying their ownership of art pieces and heirloom furnishings.

"I only have two shirts, and Robert left with just the clothes on his back" as the fire raced toward their house, she said. "The first time I came back and saw that everything was gone, I could hardly stand it."


Story compiled with contributions from Steve Fidel and Jed Boal.

Related links

Related stories

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast