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Free legal help offered in fire aftermath

People who are facing legal headaches in the aftermath of the Almeda or South Obenchain fires — including the denial of a FEMA claim — can get free help from lawyers.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, Oregon State Bar and American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division have partnered to help residents in declared disaster zones get free access to a lawyer.

Jackson County was hit by two disastrous fires during September wind and fire storms that struck communities across Oregon.

To get free legal help, call 1-800-452-7636 or see osbar.org/public/.

One key area where people need help is appealing a FEMA denial that came because they lost documents such as lease agreements, deeds and identification in the fires, according to the Oregon State Bar.

People who receive a FEMA denial can appeal the decision.

Lawyers can help residents on a range of other legal challenges, including:

  • Landlord-tenant issues and other housing problems
  • Dealing with insurance claims, including property, health and life insurance
  • Applications and appeals for FEMA and other federal benefits
  • Contracts for home repairs
  • Consumer protection issues
  • Mortgage foreclosures
  • Replacement of lost legal documents, including wills
  • Power of attorney and estate administration
  • Guardianship and conservatorships

The free legal help isn’t available for people who are considering filing a lawsuit in court in an attempt to win a monetary award or settlement. However, the bar association can help people find an appropriate lawyer through its referral service.

Other sources of free legal help for fire survivors include:

  • ABA Disaster Legal Services are free for low-income fire survivors. Call 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585 or see

    www.disasterassistance.gov/get-assistance/forms-of-assistance/4464.

  • The Oregon Trial Lawyers Association offers free help for qualified fire survivors. Call 1-800-0616 or email otlafirehelp@gmail.com.
  • The Center for Non-profit Legal Services can help with landlord-tenant and housing issues. Call 541-779-7291. Senior citizens should call 541-779-7000.
  • Legal Aid Services of Oregon can help low-income residents. For foreclosures, call 1-855-412-8828. For public benefits, including social security and food aid, call 1-800-520-5292. For income tax issues, call 1-888-610-8764.
  • Anyone who suffered any type of loss from the fires should register for FEMA assistance, even if they think they might not qualify or if they have insurance, FEMA said.

To register or get help with an application, call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362 or see disasterassistance.gov.

FEMA representatives can answer questions, help people register and check their claim status at the Multi-Agency Resource Center set up at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Some FEMA aid denials are for relatively simple, fixable problems, such as an incorrect address or social security number. FEMA representatives may be able to help with some application problems.

For information on how to appeal a FEMA denial, visit www.fema.gov/fact-sheet/reasons-why-you-might-have-been-found-ineligible-fema.

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

Mail Tribune / Jamie LuschFree legal help is being offered to Oregon residents who have been affected by the wildfires.