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FEMA is here, and recovery help is available

The cleansing rain that fell early Thursday morning brought some measure of relief to communities still reeling from the devastating fires that destroyed thousand of homes and commercial buildings and filled the air with choking smoke. The fresh air coincided with the opening of a one-stop center to help fire victims apply for disaster assistance.

Residents who suffered losses in the Almeda and Obenchain fires now have a place to go for help in applying for federal disaster assistance. Everyone should take advantage of the help being made available.

In announcing the new resource center, Jackson County officials also officially identified two of the three people who lost their lives in the Almeda fire. The third has not yet been identified.

Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to their loved ones. It is never easy to lose a friend or relative.

It’s worth noting that, but for the heroic efforts of firefighters and other first responders, the death toll would surely have been much worse. The Rogue Valley owes them an enormous debt of gratitude.

As of Thursday, the Multi-Agency Resource Center (known as the MARC) at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., is now open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Parking is available in the lot off Kenyon Street near Spiegelberg Stadium.

Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, insurance companies, the Red Cross, city agencies and others are on hand to help fire victims file claims for the help they need. Additional centers will also open at the Phoenix Civic Center, Talent Elementary School and the River House in Shady Cove, although the hours for those may vary depending on need.

County officials said FEMA sent more staff than the county asked for — 12 Disaster Survivor Assistance agents — to help victims, and more specialized agents are expected to arrive next week. Those additional agents are trained to help those victims who may have lost proof of property ownership or other documents in the fires.

Even if you have lost everything, help is available. Questions? Call 211, or go online.