Insurance may not cover rebuilding Wears Valley properties

The Sevier County Volunteer Fire Department had its tanker truck insured for $140,000. A new one now costs around $250,000.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Patrick Vaughn wants to rebuild the Von Bryan Estate, a property his family has owned for three-and-a-half decades.

He doesn’t know whether that will be possible because everything is so expensive.

“The way building materials have almost tripled in cost, it’s going to be difficult,” he said.

Others are facing similar situations. The Sevier County Volunteer Fire Department lost Tanker 111 while battling the fire on Hatcher Mountain Road.

It was insured for roughly $140,000 according to Chief Stephen Whaley. A new, basic tanker — a necessity for the department — will cost roughly $250,000.

“Everything that we had it insured for has almost doubled since then,” Chief Whaley said. “We’ll figure something out.”

At Ownby Insurance in Sevierville, agent Brandon Patterson has been busy.

“We had all of the fire vehicles that were damaged, as well as some of the properties around the area,” he said. “We have had several claims, but a lot of what we have been dealing with is folks realizing they were very under-insured in this market.”

While building materials and other items may rise in cost, insurance coverage doesn’t always increase accordingly. That’s why Patterson suggests looking at different types of policies that offer more protection.

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“It’s hard to put a number on it the way it’s been changing so often,” he said. “So, we recommend to folks getting what’s called extended replacement cost or guaranteed replacement cost on their home.”

That will ensure families can fully rebuild their homes or businesses, regardless of whether materials are rising in cost.

“That’s probably the worst thing we deal with is hearing somebody can’t build back the way they had it,” Patterson said. “We’re finding in most cases they need to make an adjustment to some degree.”

He said some companies also offer policies that can cover lost income for rental properties, such as many of the cabins that burned in the Wears Valley fire.

“It’s very important to just be very transparent with your agent about what you’re doing with your property so that we can properly insure you,” he said. “One of our main focuses is rental cabins.”