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Merrill company helping victims of California wildfires

MERRILL (WAOW)- California is still reeling from those devastating wildfires, but now a central Wisconsin company is helping those impacted.

For weeks flames torched parts of the state and destroyed homes and businesses while claiming dozens of lives.

The President of Church Mutual insurance who lives in central Wisconsin is preparing to make his way to Paradise, CA to see for himself the extent of damages and to personally hand out claims.

The motto of Church Mutual is to “Serve Those Who Serve Others.” The company insured 35 churches in Paradise but within hours of the fires spreading nearly half of those churches were charred to the ground.

“In three hours 16 churches were incinerated and completely destroyed so the claim number is not super high but the dollar amount is pretty astronomical,” said Richard Poirier the President and CEO of Church Mutual.

Each of those destroyed churches cost $2 million.

“I want to meet with the 16 ministries that were devastated and to make sure they are doing OK and that we are processing their payments properly and that we are getting them back on their feet as quickly as we can,” Poirier said.

However, Poirier said it is not just the burned churches that are suffering.

“The terrible thing that we are grappling is that the people that survived and their churches didn’t burn we are going to talk to them too because they aren’t sure they are going to survive because the town has essentially been obliterated,” Poirier said.

The insurance company said they take measures to try and keep damage to a minimum.

One way they do that is by spraying a fire retardant gel to buildings within 48 hours of a pending fire.

“We were able to prevent the buildings from being damaged beyond repair in two instances,” said Tom Kluxdal the Director of Innovation at Church Mutual. “We were able to save about $8 million based on the gel applicant that goes around the building as well as through the grounds.”

Church Mutual leaders said without their measures they believe more buildings would have been destroyed.

Poirier also tells News 9 he is taking the trip as we way to understand how the fires work. This way his company can come up with new ways to help prevent any future losses.


Victoria Saha

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