SPECIAL REPORT: Nacogdoches Co. waiting to qualify for FEMA reimbursement

The City of Nacogdoches is awaiting word of reimbursement from FEMA
The City of Nacogdoches is awaiting word of reimbursement from FEMA

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Back in September, the fire in Nacogdoches County burned for almost a week.

Before it was all over the blaze consumed 6,500 acres spreading from Nacogdoches County to Cherokee County.

The Angelina river wasn't wide enough to stop what became known as the Angelina River bottom fire.

"The first 24 hours that we were fighting this fire there were no state resources. They were in Bastrop and in Tyler, it also had a very large fire," said Nacogdoches County Judge Joe English.

Today local agencies fear they're on their own again.

"And it looks like we're about $212,000, as far as the cost of the fire," said English.

Notice the judge said 'about $212,000. It's appearing expenses are just shy of that amount to qualify for FEMA reimbursement.

"At the present time, it appears that FEMA will not be reimbursing us for fires we had in September," said Bobby Brashears, Lilbert-Looneyville Volunteer Fire Department.

The application process will continue, but the anticipated news is tough for volunteer fire departments. They're facing increased equipment repair charges and most of all quadrupled fuel costs.

"Our normal fuel expense is $300 or $400 a month. For this month of September we spent a little over $2500 just in fuel alone. Multiply that by 17 departments in the county and it's adding up quickly," said Brashears.

Brashears says VFD's have been told the county will reimburse fuel costs, even though its also facing over $12,000 in overtime pay. The City of Nacogdoches also has expenses for doing the neighborly thing.

"Money is important, but we don't go out and do it with, ' We've got to have reimbursement or we're not going.' We got to do it because we're helping other departments and we have a full expectation and know they would help us if the need were to arise," said Jim Jeffers, Nacogdoches City Manager.

The goal with any catastrophic event too big for only local resources to handle is to find a way to bring in help without breaking the bank.

"TIFMA. Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System," said Keith Kiplinger, Nacogdoches Fire Chief.

It's a Texas Forest Service program making statewide use of local resources. The program was first used during Hurricane Ike.

"What we're doing is reallocating Texas resources that are here and those costs are actually lower than brining in people from Nevada or Ohio," said Kiplinger.

No department is required to send resources. It's a voluntary process that is working. Listen to a comparison of the Angelina River bottom fire with another large fire that happened near Woden eleven years ago.

"The Chicken House Fire that was 4,500 acres that took 4 weeks to put out. This fire was 6,500 acre fire and it took 5 days to put out and the reason is because of the resources that we did have," said English.

The Angelina River bottom fire could have cost more. If it did perhaps Nacogdoches County would be confident in receiving a reimbursement. No matter the outcome, local firefighters know after the flames they did their job and did it well.

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