State Farm: Investigating wildfire, not agencies

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County wildfire that ripped through nearly 19,000 acres of land and destroyed over 70 homes is now under investigation by State Farm officials.

A spokesman for the insurance agency has confirmed agents are investigating the fire, and is considered to be a common occurrence after such an event.  State Farm says the agency is not checking out official response to the fire, nor any responding agencies.

"This is not an investigation into any kind of response or any municipality, city, or fire department," said Bruce White, spokesman for State Farm. "This is solely an internal investigation by State Farm to learn as much as they can about the wildfire and to do our duty to our policy holders."

Officials confirm they are just looking into who or what started the fire.

"Whenever there's a large wildfire, State Farm will do an investigation into that. We hire an independent party, not employees of State Farm, to do an investigation into this loss," explained White.

WMBNews has learned State Farm hired Mark Grotefeld, an attorney out of the Chicago based firm Grotefeld & Hoffmann, LLP to handle the investigation.

Grotefeld is working with John Stewart of Jack Ward Fire Consultants to investigate what started the Horry County Wildfire back in April.

This investigation is into the actual cause of the fire, so that whoever is responsible for the fire would be financially responsible as well.

"This solely had to do with looking for a liable party, if there is any for subrogation or recoupment of some of the dollars we've paid out," White added.

According to White, there were 60 claims filed to State Farm after the wildfire. About half of those claims were total losses that have added up to over $6 million - a number White says will continue to rise as claims are completed.

White says the investigation by State Farm into how the wildfire started could take up to six months.

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