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A Family's Home Is Rapidly Being Eaten By Fungus

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A family in Pomona says that their house is being consumed by fungus and their insurance company has denied their claim to repair it.

Chris and Crystal Zettell discovered a strange substance in their home that was turning the wood to mush, KTLA reports. Chris described the fungus as an "an orange pancake-batter-looking ooze." The couple tried to scrape the ooze away in December, but it soon returned. Crystal told KTLA that the couple had ten people come and check the ooze out, but no one seems to know what it was.

Finally, the Zettells did their own research and determined it is something called 'Merulipora incrassata,' a wood-eating fungus known as 'The House Eating Fungus.' While most fungi can only thrive with direct access to water, this particular fungus has the ability to pump its own water through filaments called rhizomorphs that can travel through soil and connect the fungus to a water source (such as damp soil) up to 30 to 40 feet away. It can also discharge its own enzyme that weakens wood. It can remain hidden while it spreads quickly within walls or under floors.

The fungus was first discovered in the 1920s, feeding on the roots of redwood trees. It's been found in various homes in California over the last 20 years, and has also popped up in Gulf States like Alabama and Mississippi. In 2012, an L.A. couple had to deal with the fungus wreaking havoc on their home.

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To clear a home of the house-eating fungus, it must be separated from its water source. However, that generally means removing all the infected wood and surrounding wood, plus all the filaments. This can be a costly process. The Zettells are looking at tens of thousands of dollars.

"You can repair the leaks and the damage, but if you can't cut the roots, it will come back fast," W. Wayne Wilcox, a professor of forestry, told SF Gate.

The Zettell's insurance company, Allstate, has denied their claim. The company said they do cover "sudden and accidental direct physical loss to property," but not damage caused by water or other substance on or below the ground's surface, no matter the source. A representative from Allstate told KTLA that that in general, water damage that is not sudden or accidental won't be covered by most California insurance companies.

The Zettells are continuing to fight Allstate's denial.