The Smithers man whose home burned down on Slack Road on Jan. 12 has had his claim denied.
Komi Pelawelo told The Interior News that his insurance company Aviva has denied his claim, asserting that Pelawelo was using his wood stove as his primary source of heat rather than natural gas, and that the stove was left on.
“It’s not true. It wasn’t on,” Pelawelo said, adding that his wood stove was included in his policy.
“It’s not like I was sneaking around and tried to put a wood stove in. It was in my contract, my policy.”
Smithers fire chief Keith Stecko previously told Interior News that his department was unable to determine the cause of the fire and the investigation was in the hands of the insurance company.
According to Pelawelo, the investigator who went to the scene said one of the burner knobs on the stove was in the on position.
However, when Pelawelo and his 26-year-old son went to the scene to see if there was anything to salvage, he said there were no knobs on the stove at all.
“He made up the story,” Pelawelo said of the investigator.
He said he sent Aviva’s letter denying his claim to his lawyer and is awaiting advice on a course of action to take.
“I was going to go viral,” he said.
Firefighters fought the flames for seven hours, but Pelawelo lost everything.
He and his son were house sitting for a friend for a while after the fire, but since the friend returned the two have been separated. The son now stays with his mother and Pelawelo is staying with another friend.
“They should be there for us, but they never were,” Pelawelo said of Aviva. “It’s not worth insuring anything and trusting them.”
The Bulkley Valley community raised several thousand dollars to help Pelawelo, which he said he has saved for upcoming expenses related to the fire.
“I have to clean up,” he said. “That’s what I didn’t even touch it.”
Aviva did not respond to requests for comment before press time.