The deadliest wildfire in California history bankrupted the insurance company of a former Longview family who lost their home in the Paradise blaze, and they don’t know how much they will recover.

Merced Property and Casualty declared bankruptcy Friday because it can’t keep up with claims from fire-damaged homes and property, and former Longview residents Jesse and Laurel Merz are among the policyholders left in limbo.

They were in a panic through Monday, when they learned that they the California Insurance Guarantee Association will pay fire-related damage claims up to $500,000. CIGA is taking over policy and customer information for Merced at the direction of a judge.

Merz said the $500,000 cap will not be enough to rebuild a house for his five-person family and pay off the mortgage on the house they lost. The family may know more by Friday.

“The reality of it is I just need some of it,” Merz said. “I just need enough.”

But he said his family still chooses to remain positive and have faith that their case will be resolved fairly. They are hoping to close on a new home by the end of the month.

“We are optimistic that the good people ... will take care of our family in a timely fashion,” Merz said.

Merz, 45, was the director of the Stageworks drama company in Longview from 2000 to 2003. Even though he and his family moved away at the end of that tenure, he still has many relatives in Longview, Kelso and Kalama.

The family’s story about it harrowing escape from the flames appeared in The Daily News on Nov. 17 and was broadcast on CNN afterward.

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments