SLAUGHTERVILLE, Okla. (AP) — Gov. Mary Fallin wrapped her arms around Harold Grigg on Thursday near a pile of charred debris that was the man’s home until a wildfire burned it and others in his rural Oklahoma neighborhood to the ground.
“It was a massive fire. This family is very fortunate that they were all able to be safe,” said Fallin, who along with federal and state emergency management officials was surveying the blackened trees and grass that surrounded what was left of Grigg’s Cleveland County home.
The governor and damage assessment teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration visited the area almost a week after a wildfire swept by strong winds scorched structures in the region on Aug. 3.
Assessment teams will visit wildfire-damaged areas in Cleveland, Creek, Oklahoma and Payne counties to determine whether residents or business owners qualify for federal disaster assistance, including uninsured losses.
Grigg’s wife, Vicky, said the fire that destroyed their home moved so swiftly that they were only able to save themselves and their pets. She said they have insurance, but that some of their neighbors don’t.
All but two of the dozen or so homes on their street were destroyed. The couple’s children and other family members are among their neighbors.
Albert Ashwood, director of the Department of Emergency Management, said the uninsured neighbors may qualify for federal aid. “We’re going to see if we can get them some help,” he said.
The Griggs said they have lived in the same location for 30 years and have no plans to move away, despite losing their home.
“I’m not leaving. I’m going to rebuild,” Harold Grigg said.
“This community is staying right here,” Vicky Grigg added. “We’re family. Stay where your family is.”
The couple said they may request a portable toilet and a storage shed to shelter necessities while they rebuild their home.
Wildfires over the past week have destroyed 380 homes and burned more than 171 square miles statewide. A badly burned body was discovered last week inside a Norman home that was ravaged by wildfires, according to the chief medical examiner’s office.
Fallin praised firefighters and volunteers from the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other charities that are providing food, water and other necessities for the wildfire victims.
“That’s what makes Oklahoma very special,” the governor said. “If you’re going to have a disaster, it’s best to be in Oklahoma.”