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Fire aid deadlines fast approaching

Deadlines are fast approaching for a range of programs aimed at helping people impacted by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires in Jackson County.

People who lost their jobs or who had their hours reduced because of the fires have until Friday, Oct. 23, to apply for disaster unemployment benefits.

People may be eligible even if they don’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits.

For more information or to apply, see oregon.gov/employ/disaster.

Property owners who want to take part in the government-funded cleanup of hazardous materials from burned sites should return right-of-entry forms to Jackson County by Friday, Oct. 23. That service is free to property owners.

Those forms are available at jacksoncounty.org/roe.

Property owners can also choose to take part in a coordinated cleanup of the remaining fire debris through the right-of-entry form. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has committed to pay for at least 75% of those costs. The government will not try to recoup insurance settlement money from property owners, officials have said. The government may try to recoup insurance settlement money specifically earmarked for cleanup.

“The government is not going to take any insurance money designated for the rebuilding of your home,” said Jackson County Emergency Operations Center Director John Vial.

About two-thirds of property owners have returned the right-of-entry forms, he said Wednesday.

The hazardous debris cleanup started last weekend and will continue for the next few months. General cleanup can start at sites that have been cleared of hazardous debris such as propane tanks, ammunition, cleaners and paint.

Properties have to be cleaned before rebuilding can start.

The owners of manufactured home parks should sign up for the cleanup program. Individual tenants should not be told by owners that they are responsible for cleaning their home sites. Tenants also should not be required to pay land rent if their home burned down, Vial said.

Tenants who are not being treated correctly can call the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association free fire relief hotline at 1-800-809-0616 or visit www.oregontriallawyers.org.

Another approaching deadline is Wednesday, Oct. 28 — the last day to apply for immediate disaster aftermath assistance from the American Red Cross.

Call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit redcross.org to register.

The Red Cross is helping on a variety of fronts, including providing financial aid, temporary housing and food for people who lost their homes to the fires.

Anyone who has suffered any type of loss from the fires, including people with insurance, should register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at disasterassistance.gov.

The registration deadline for the fires is Nov. 15.

“Jackson County is continuing to urge people to sign up and register through FEMA if they have suffered a loss of any kind as a result of this event. The county continues to be concerned with the number of registrations we are seeing as compared to the number of registrations that we feel should be filed,” Vial said.

Officials fear residents may miss out on benefits that could help them in the fires’ aftermath.

So far in Jackson County, FEMA has distributed nearly $15 million in grants through its individual and household aid program, Vial said.

Registrations also demonstrate to FEMA the extent of the harm from the fires.

In the aftermath of the fires, 4,040 people in Jackson County have registered, Vial said.

The Almeda fire destroyed 2,482 residential structures, including apartment complexes, houses and manufactured home parks. The fire destroyed 173 business structures.

The South Obenchain fire destroyed 33 residential structures and 56 additional structures, such as outbuildings.

Thousands of people have lost their homes and many lost their livelihoods.

Jackson County has set up a website at www.roguevalleyrebuilds.org that pulls together a variety of information about assistance, recovery and rebuilding.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Deadlines for aid are fast approaching for people impacted by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires that started in September. Spenser Heaps/Deseret News