Firefighters in Colorado Springs, Colo., have made a herculean effort to douse recent wildfires, but area financial advisers also are pitching in to help affected residents.
After burning for nearly two weeks and incinerating more than 18,000 acres, the Waldo Canyon fire was 95% contained by press time. Evacuations have been lifted for many of the 32,000 area residents who have had to leave their homes, but close to 350 houses have burned down.
With the recovery effort imminent, local advisers are finding ways to help survivors, volunteering financial planning services and making donations.
“As a firm, what we want to do is have an emergency-preparedness meeting to prepare people to take care of the urgent things,” said Donna R. Chapel, an adviser with Chapel & Collins LLC.
For adviser Craig Carnick, the Colorado Springs tragedy struck particularly close to home.
Mr. Carnick, founder of fee-only firm Carnick & Co. and a resident of nearby Manitou Springs, was evacuated with his wife from their home early July 1. The couple packed some things and stayed at their daughter's apartment for three days.
Luckily for Mr. Carnick, his home was unharmed when he returned. In fact, he and his wife were able to provide shelter to a family evacuated from Colorado Springs.
But two clients lost their homes.
Fortunately, they had completed home inventories to ease the insurance claims process, Mr. Carnick said.
Similarly, Rob Wrubel, vice president of investments at Cascade Investment Group Inc., which manages about $200 million in assets, said that he has taken in an evacuee — and his cats.
Meanwhile, a client who was evacuated managed to bring his possessions over to Mr. Wrubel's garage.
Of course, this isn't the first time that the financial advisory community has rallied to help victims of a natural disaster.
Last September, advisers in Vermont, where more than a dozen towns were left isolated due to flooding in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, banded together to help flood victims. Likewise, advisers also provided pro-bono assistance to people who lost their homes due to wildfires in seven Southern California counties in late 2007.
In the current disaster, however, those getting hit the hardest are the business owners, Mr. Carnick said.
His firm is working on pro-bono efforts to aid small entrepreneurs with consulting work and cash flow management. Tourism is an essential part of the local economy, and the summer is a big season for hiking, kayaking and other activities.
Meanwhile, members of the Financial Planning Association of Colorado are kicking off a pro-bono effort aimed at helping those affected.
“For the most part, people who go through this have never been through it,” said Karl Frank, president of A&I Financial Services LLC and public-awareness director for FPA Colorado.
Last month, Mr. Frank, whose firm oversees $110 million in assets, rallied a number of chapter members to meet with fire survivors in Fort Collins with “recovery” kits that contained information on getting through a disaster.
He is recruiting local advisers for a similar meeting in Colorado Springs, likely at a Red Cross shelter.
“People are in shock,” Mr. Frank said.
Setting aside money for cash reserves came in handy for two clients affected by the fires, according to Jay Hardesty, president of Ashton Wealth Management.
He recommends that clients set aside two years' worth of retirement expenses in cash reserves.
“These reserves were critical for two separate clients and their families, as they were able to set up new households as they waited out the evacuations,” Mr. Hardesty said.
Still, some area clients who have lost their homes are unsure whether they will be back to rebuild.
Ray Starling, an agent with Starling Insurance & Associates Inc. and a Colorado Springs resident, has two clients whose houses burned down.
“It could be a couple of years before they get everything built up,” he said.
Nevertheless, advisers noted that the one bright spot has been the community's ability to pull together.
“It's been amazing how much community support there has been,” Ms. Chapel said. “It's not just for those who've lost so much but also the firefighters and others who've put their lives on the line.”
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