GRIMES COUNTY, Texas Some victims of the Dyer Mill wildfire in June are wondering why they re being left out of the federal government s disaster declaration.
Local officials had asked for the assistance to be lumped in with the aid for the tri-county fire that burned earlier this month in Grimes, Montgomery and Waller counties, but that request was denied, said Michael Pishner, the emergency management director for Grimes County.
The tri-county fire in September happened around the same time as the massive wildfire in Bastrop County near Austin, which scorched more than 1,500 homes. Pishner said that led the federal government to lump in its aid for many fires that were happening across Texas during that period.
Pishner said what while he did not agree with the decision, FEMA has criteria in place that weren t met during the Dyer Mill fire. But he added that volunteers and private citizens have stepped up to deliver aid in a way that the government never could.
The Dyer Mill fire had a state disaster declaration, which allowed the county to be reimbursed for some expenses. But assistance for individual homeowners is limited to federal programs.
The rejection means that people affected by the Dyer Mill fire will not be eligible for certain low-interest loans and temporary housing, Pishner said.
In a written statement, FEMA said it assesses a number of factors to determine the severity, magnitude, and impact of a disaster event.
Those factors include the amount and type of damage...(the) level of insurance coverage in place for homeowners and public facilities...(and the) state and local resource commitments from previous, undeclared events.
But some residents are questioning whya fire that caused less damage in Grimes County only one home was destroyed in the tri-county fire in September would be considered a higher priority than the June fire that leveled 34 homes plus dozens of outbuildings.
That Dyer Mill fire burned more than 5,300 acres, including Robert Els property.
Pretty tough, he said Tuesday. You re never going to get it back. Took me 45 years to accumulate it. Took me 45 seconds to lose it.
Els has been trying to salvage whatever he can for the past three months.
I just think that FEMA ought to include us in this program and give us some help, he said. There s a lot of people in here that need it.
John Shuford has spent the past month living in his RV after his home burned to the ground.
I don t know how bad you have to get in order to call it a federal disaster, he said. I can t imagine it being worse than this.