June 14, 2013 Updated: June 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm
DirecTV Friday called a local man who lost his home in the Black Forest Fire to apologize for his company telling him to pay for his burned satellite dish and other equipment.
"They said it was all a big mixup," said Jeremy Beach, whose family escaped the fire with just a few possessions.
On Thursday Beach had called DirecTV to cancel service for his destroyed home and was told he would owe $400 for the ruined equipment. He was so astounded that he asked for a manager, who confirmed the bill, then called back again to double check.
Friday, DirecTV said it was all a mistake.
"The agent who spoke with Mr. Beach was wrong, and we have contacted the customer to apologize and assure him and his family that we will do everything we can to help them through this difficult time," DirecTV said in a statement. "DirecTV has a clear policy that fully supports its customers during natural disasters that includes replacement of damaged equipment at no charge, long-term suspension of accounts for customers who must leave their home, and waiving cancellation fees for those who need to disconnect service."
DirecTV also charged customers after the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012.
After the Gazette told Beach's story Thursday, it went "viral" on Facebook, Beach said. The story also ran in several newspapers. DirecTV's Facebook page was inundated with comments, calling the actions "disgusting" and "deplorable."
"I find it absolutely horrendous that you could take advantage of our neighbors who have lost EVERYTHING just to get your stupid dish and boxes back," said a poster named Brianne Simpson.
"It was a fantastic distraction," said Beach, who is staying with friends in Larkspur. "I got made fun of for my sudden notoriety."
Beach said when he spoke to DirecTV he asked them to make sure the same mistakes are not repeated with his neighbors. "We are not the only ones in this fire, I asked they make sure it doesn't happen again."
Locals who read the story of the Beach family called the Gazette with pledges of support. Bicycle village offered his 5-year-old son who lost his bike in the fire a replacement. A family from Kansas who's family homesteaded in Black Forest years ago offered to bring a trailer load of food, clothes, and baby items. Another man whose Mountain Shadows house was spared by the Waldo Canyon fire called the Gazette from Afghanistan to ask how he could give Beach $500.
"Our house was just missed," he said. "I kind of understand how he feels."
Contact Dave Philipps