NORMAN — When the federal government announced in mid-August that Cleveland County wasn’t included in the wildfire disaster declaration, many southeast county residents couldn’t believe it.
One woman died and dozens of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in the early August fires which spanned several days. The owners lacked insurance in an estimated 85 percent of them. Now, the federal government has accepted Gov. Mary Fallin’s appeal and made Cleveland County part of the disaster designation.
Two other impacted counties, Oklahoma and Payne counties, were included in the appeal but did not meet the federal criteria. The reversal means Cleveland County fire victims will be able to apply for individual and business assistance. They may be eligible for housing assistance, small business loans, unemployment assistance and grants for other needs.
The reversal wouldn’t have happened without follow-up from county officials who went into the field to document damage and from individual victims who were encouraged to report damage. Officials will now set up an assistance center with state emergency management staff members and work to get the word out on filing for assistance.