Federal officials turned down Oklahoma's request Thursday for assistance for individuals and business owners who suffered losses from wildfires in Oklahoma, Cleveland and Payne counties.
Gov. Mary Fallin called the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency cruel and plans to appeal it.
FEMA made the announcement one day after approving individual assistance for wildfire victims in Creek County.
The letter, from FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, states, “It has been determined that the damage to the dwellings from wildfires in Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne counties was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of individual assistance for these counties.”
Nearly 680 homes and businesses were damaged beginning July 28, as fires burned more than 114,000 acres. A reported 603 houses were destroyed; it's been estimated 85 percent of them were not insured.
“Mr. Fugate's letter not only seems bureaucratic but cruel,” Fallin said. “I am extremely disappointed in FEMA's decision to deny disaster assistance to all Oklahomans who have been tragically impacted by these fires. It seems ridiculous to me that houses lost in fires occurring within the same period, on the same day in some cases, would arbitrarily qualify for aid in some counties while not in others.”
Fallin said Oklahoma has 30 days to appeal. To help build a case, all those in Oklahoma, Cleveland and Payne counties who experienced wildfire damage to their homes or businesses since July 28 are urged to call FEMA at (800) 621-3362 to report it.