Oklahoma Gov. Declares State Of Emergency


Friday, April 10th 2009, 7:40 am
By: News On 6


NewsOn6.com

MIDWEST CITY, OK  --  Governor Brad Henry has declared a State of Emergency for 31 counties impacted by Thursday's devastating wildfires and severe weather.

The declaration marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.

Firefighters are mopping up after wildfires that injured at least 34 people and destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes and other structures in central Oklahoma on Thursday. 

Oklahoma counties included in the executive order: Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Garvin, Grady, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Jefferson, Kay, Kiowa, LeFlore, Lincoln, Logan, Love, McClain, Murray, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Stephens, Tillman and Washita.

LeFlore County is included because of damages sustained from a tornado and severe storms.

Governor Brad Henry, who will tour damage in the Midwest City area Friday afternoon, says officials hope to get a better idea of how extensive the destruction is this afternoon.

The hardest hit areas were in eastern Oklahoma County, including the communities of Midwest City, where 35 homes were destroyed, and Choctaw, where 18 homes were lost, said Midwest City Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka.

Albert Ashwood credited a good warning system and a heroic firefighting effort for preventing loss of life. 

4/09/2009 Related story: Fire Destroys at Least 100 Structures in Midwest City

Up the Turner Turnpike, firefighters in Wellston battled flames for more than 8 hours Thursday. At least three homes burned to the ground.

Lincoln County homeowners spent the day dousing homes and lawns with water to ward off fire. One firefighter was injured when his truck caught fire near Route 66.

He's expected to be okay.

4/09/2009 Related story: Fires Destroy Homes, Buildings Across State

South of Oklahoma City, 13 homes were damaged or destroyed between Lindsay and Dibble and dozens of others homes were threatened.

In Stephens County, Marlow Fire Chief Jerome McCalvin says some homes have been lost in the Velma area.

In Carter County, assistant emergency management director Chester Agan says six homes have been destroyed and a church in Fox was destroyed.

Stillwater Emergency Management Director Kirk Mittlestet says some structures have been lost in Payne County.

Those who lost homes are trying to keep their spirits high.

Governor Brad Henry is expressing his thoughts on the wildfires and how the state has responded.

In a statement, the governor says "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the Oklahomans who have been impacted by the wildfires. We will do our best to help them rebuild their lives. The state is doing everything we can to deliver resources to firefighters and first responders on the front lines. They have done an amazing job under very challenging conditions, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude."

Governor's Emergency Declaration news release...

Gov. Brad Henry today declared a State of Emergency for 31 counties impacted by Thursday's devastating wildfires and severe weather.

Under that executive order, state agencies can make emergency purchases and acquisitions needed to expedite the delivery of resources to local jurisdictions. The declaration also marks a first step toward seeking federal assistance should it be necessary.

Counties included in the executive order are: Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Carter, Cleveland, Comanche, Cotton, Custer, Garvin, Grady, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Jefferson, Kay, Kiowa, LeFlore, Lincoln, Logan, Love, McClain, Murray, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Payne, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie, Stephens, Tillman and Washita. LeFlore County is included because of damages sustained from a tornado and severe storms. More counties can be added to the order as additional information becomes available.

The declaration is part of wide-ranging state efforts to pool resources and assess damages after wildfires yesterday injured at least 49 people and damaged or destroyed an estimated 100 homes and other structures. Midwest City and the nearby towns of Choctaw and Nicoma Park were especially hard hit, but fires caused significant damage in many other sections of Oklahoma.

Gov. Henry said state relief efforts are being coordinated by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and the state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry in conjunction with various local governmental agencies.

"Our firefighters and first responders have done an outstanding job in the face of daunting fires, and these brave men and women have our heartfelt gratitude. They are true heroes," Gov. Henry said.

"But there is much more to do, and the State of Oklahoma will do everything in its power to ensure help for those people who need it most."

The Governor said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency yesterday authorized two Fire Management Assistance Grants, or FMAGs, to battle blazes in the Midwest City-Choctaw area and McClain County. State emergency management officials are in the process or requesting additional FMAGs.

Under such authorization, FEMA funding is available to pay 75 percent of state, local and tribal government eligible firefighting costs. Federal fire management assistance is offered through the President's Disaster Relief Fund. Eligible costs covered by the assistance can include equipment use, supplies, field camps, repair and replacement; tools and activities related to mobilization and demobilization.

The Governor lauded the American Red Cross and other organizations providing help for people displaced by the fires.

"Our charity organizations are doing a tremendous job, and I would urge Oklahomans who can do so to consider donating to any agency taking part in the relief efforts," he said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the scores of families and individuals who lost homes or businesses as a result of the wildfires. But Oklahomans come together in times of crisis and do what is needed to overcome hardship, and that resolve will serve us again."