Another disaster, another snub by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In the latest example of FEMA selectivity, the early August fires in Creek County were worthy of federal government help and the fires at the same time elsewhere in Oklahoma weren't.
Gov. Mary Fallin requested federal aid for fire victims in Cleveland, Oklahoma and Payne counties. Washington nixed it. Fallin called the decision “bureaucratic” and cruel. She plans to appeal. Based on experience, the appeal won't work. As for being “bureaucratic,” that goes with the territory. FEMA is a quintessential bureaucracy.
Administrator Craig Fugate is ultimately responsible for determining which disasters qualify for help and which ones don't. A purely political approach to disaster declaration would reward states whose voters are in line with the current presidential administration and punish those who aren't. A more rational approach is supposedly used by FEMA.
Fugate said the agency determined that damage in the three snubbed counties “was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant” FEMA intervention. Tell that to a Luther (Oklahoma County) resident who's now homeless and feels every bit as affected as a Mannford (Creek County) resident living in a campground because fires took his home.
FEMA doesn't see things this way. The magnitude of the disaster is paramount to its bureaucrats. Creek County lost 376 homes, about 85 percent of which were uninsured, in a fire that ranged over 58,500 acres. In the other three counties combined, 227 homes were destroyed.
Affected residents in those three counties must look elsewhere for assistance while their fellow Oklahomans in Creek County get most-favored-victim status.
It's all in a day's work for Fugate and company, whose disaster inventory never diminishes. We can't fault FEMA if the rules were followed. This is taxpayer money.
But we can sympathize with fire victims who feel slighted as they rise from the ashes and get snubbed by the FEMA machine.