Stillwater News Press

Local News

September 10, 2012

Glencoe wildfire victims seek answers to FEMA ruling

STILLWATER, Okla. — For dozens of Payne County residents, August wildfires were devastating. An Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management report shows 63 Payne County homes were damaged, including 53 that were destroyed.

It wasn’t disastrous enough to warrant Federal Emergency Management Agency aid. Oklahoma, Payne and Cleveland counties were denied aid, which left Payne County wildfire victims confused.

Gary Fancier said he lost grazing land and hay which made him sell some of his livestock. Hay, if one can find it, can cost anywhere from $55 to more than $100 per bale.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can with what little we got,” Fancier said. He considers himself one of the lucky ones. The flames missed his barn and his home but times are still tough.

“I am very disappointed in FEMA,” Fancier said. “We are paying all this money to our government and then when we need help, big government is not there to help us.”

He said FEMA should have helped Payne, Oklahoma and Cleveland counties.

Betty Bullard wasn’t as lucky. Her Glencoe home was destroyed, and it remains difficult for her to return to the ashes.

“You wake up in the morning and you have a home and then when you go to bed it’s gone,” Bullard said. As the flames grew closer she was only able to save a few photos, suitcases and four dogs.

Her home was insured but family disputes have left her unsure if she will see a dime.

“I don’t understand it,” Bullard said of FEMA’s refusal to help.

Nola Ellington of Glencoe also lost her home. She saved a few legal documents and a change of clothes. Her home was insured but she still thinks Payne County should be helped.

“Payne County deserves aid as much as anybody,” Ellington said.

Payne County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Kevin Woodward said its investigation into the August wildfire near Glencoe is nearly completed. He said the department is waiting on statements from oil pipeline workers but attorneys are not cooperating.

Earlier in the investigation the sheriff’s department stated the wildfire may have been caused by pipeline activity.

Gov. Mary Fallin has appealed FEMA’s decision calling for an individual assistance declaration. The 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 low-interest loans for individuals and businesses and grants for serious needs and necessary disaster expenses not met by other programs.

“That’s why I voted for her,” Fancier said. “She is not going to let this rest.”

Bullard said while FEMA may have failed her and other victims, the community of Glencoe has come together. She said Baptists, Amish and even Buddhists have donated time, money and essential items. People have handed her $100 bills in the street. And when she goes to the grocery store people hand her gift cards.

“It’s sometimes hard to take in,” said Bullard, overwhelmed at the outpouring of support for fire victims.

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