Overland Park fire victims navigate long insurance claim process

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- It's an experience they don't teach in schools.

That's what one Overland Park homeowner said, reflecting on a week spent coping with the effects of last Monday's eight-alarm fire, that burned several homes near 115th Street and Ballentine. That neighborhood has been turned upside down, as neighbors continue to recover.

An official with the city of Overland Park says the March 20 fire, which started at the City Place Apartment Complex, has caused as much as $25 million in damage.

City leaders have called a news conference for Tuesday to update the public on their efforts, including the assignment of three case workers to assist recovering homeowners.

"All of my purses! All of my purses!" Cindy Kulphong Patana shouted from her burned up living room.

Keepsakes aren't half of what Kulphong Patana has lost. Her two-story home, once an attractive home in a quiet neighborhood, is ruined.

Insurance adjusters are in the home now, having been there for an entire week, helping Kulphong Patana account for belongings that can't be salvaged. The home's walls are jet black from fire damage. The ceiling over her living room is completely gone, after a burning ember from City Place caused her home's roof to spark up.

"I guess with every cloud, there's a silver lining. The people at work told me, you're getting a new house and new everything," Kulphong Patana said on Monday.

It was late in the afternoon on March 20 when fire gutted a building under construction at City Place, which is only a block away. Fire officials say embers from that fire blew into Kulphong Patana's neighborhood. Several homes on her street show significant fire damage. Many appear to be unusable due to heavy damage.

Traffic barricades are back in place on Indian Creek Parkway and other entryways into her neighborhood. Police can be seen patrolling the area, and yet, gawkers are still coming to see the fire damaged neighborhood.

While FOX 4 News cameras were rolling on Monday, a bus with passengers representing a local assisted living community drove through the neighborhood, a familiar sight according to Kulphong Patana.

"We don't need to be seeing this," Kulphong Patana lamented.

All the while, Kulphong Patana has been staying with her parents, as she surveys the possessions she's been able to save.

"All of my stuff I had in there, I kind of took it for granted. I assumed I'd always have it, and now, I don't," Kulphong Patana said.

On Saturday, donated items were given to victims at the nearby Christ Lutheran Church. Kulphong Patana says city officials have been helpful in her recovery, but no one can restore her security.

"This is something you don't know how to -- you can't prepare for this," Kulphong Patana said.

Kulphong Patana, who works in the healthcare industry, advises homeowners to take photos of everything they own, since those photos could come in handy during tough times. Also, using a fireproof safe or box can help protect valuables from a fire. Kulphong Patana commented that she wishes she'd used one.

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