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Opinion

September 12, 2012

Governor Fallin appeals FEMA denial, seeks aid for wildfire victims

OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Mary Fallin today filed a formal appeal (letter attached) on behalf of Oklahoma wildfire victims in Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne counties, asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reverse its recent decision denying individual assistance to those hard hit by last month’s devastating fires.

“The victims of the recent wildfires need help getting back on their feet and we are asking FEMA to revisit our assistance request,” Fallin said. “Though the federal government granted assistance for wildfire victims in Creek County, they denied the request for Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne counties.  Oklahomans in these counties suffered damage from wildfires during the same time period and as a result of the same extreme weather and drought conditions.  Our appeal makes a strong case for residents in Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne counties and we hope the federal government will amend its initial declaration, which appears lopsided and unfair.”

 The July 28-August 14 wildfires damaged nearly 300 homes in Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne Counties. This number includes 270 homes that were destroyed. An estimated 85 percent of the homes damaged or destroyed were not insured. One person died in the fire in Cleveland County.

On August 13, Gov. Fallin requested individual assistance for four of the state’s hardest hit areas, Cleveland, Creek, Oklahoma and Payne counties. While a fire in Creek County was granted a declaration on August 22, FEMA denied assistance for victims in the other three counties, claiming that state, local and volunteer organizations could address the damages in those areas.

In its appeal, the state cites the overall weather conditions that led to numerous fires within the same time period. Additional damage numbers, high uninsured rates and continued housing challenges in the area were also listed.

An individual assistance declaration would make Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne County home and business owners eligible for assistance with housing repairs or temporary housing and disaster unemployment assistance. It would also provide for U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans for individuals and businesses and grants for serious needs and necessary disaster expenses not met by other programs.

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