State Insurance Commissioner Tours Pawnee County Wildfire Damage

Friday, August 12th 2011, 3:47 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

PAWNEE COUNTY, Oklahoma -- State Insurance Commissioner John Doak toured wild fire damage in Pawnee County Friday and said his department would try to help rural fire departments have more resources in the future.

The wildfires killed one man, left another man seriously burned and destroyed 35 homes. Even with all that, emergency managers believe it could have easily been much worse.

8/11/2011 Related Story: Terlton Man Found Dead Among Wildfire Ruins

"I don't think what could have been done different with the wind conditions and the weather that we had," said Mark Randell, with the Pawnee County Emergency Management.

The county emergency management director says even with more than 125 firefighters on duty each day, the scope of the fire was overwhelming.  Without enough help to rotate in and out, firefighters were overworked and some needed medical care to keep going.

Pawnee County Fires Photos

That's part of the reason the State Insurance Commissioner John Doak wants to see more resources poured into rural fire departments.

"We want to promote rural volunteer fire departments and what it's like to volunteer in it," Doak said.

Commissioner Doak said his department is also going to encourage more people to buy insurance, because in rural Oklahoma most homes are uninsured.

"I think we can do a better job at the insurance department linking the cost of home insurance and the cost of protecting assets in rural counties," he said.

The losses extended in agricultural property and according to the insurance commissioner, most of the land would not be insured and the losses could easily be in the millions of dollars.

8/8/2011 Related Story: Evacuation Order Lifted For Terlton Residents

"People have lost hay, which is really important this year," Randell said. "I've talked to farmers who are going to have to sell cattle, because they've lsot their crop."

The firefighters gained the upper hand late Monday, but worry about the next time whether they'll be able to stop the fire and whether the victims will be able to come back from their losses.

The emergency management director says around 10,000 acres burned and the insurance commissioner believes the losses in Pawnee County could be over $10 million.