Deadline approaches for wildfire aid

CORONA, Calif. Jan. 20 is the last day to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA officials said even those who were insured should register.

Applications can be completed via the agency's toll-free number, 1-800- 621-3362 -- or 1-800-621-7586 for the hearing-impaired -- or online at

The telephone lines are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily -- except New Year's Day, and the Web site can be accessed any time.

"The New Year's resolution of everyone who suffered a loss from the wildfires should be to register immediately," said Deputy State Coordinating Officer Tom Maruyama. "The registration covers both FEMA and state assistance."

The Triangle Fire, also known as the Freeway Complex Fire, broke out near the Riverside (91) Freeway and Green River Road in Corona on Nov. 15 and blackened more than 30,300 acres in Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.

The blaze -- the exact cause of which has yet to be identified -- damaged or destroyed 17 homes in the Corona area before spreading across county lines, driven by Santa Ana winds for two days.

The Orange County Fire Authority said the fire destroyed 187 residences and damaged 127 others in Yorba Linda, Anaheim and Brea, while four commercial properties were either damaged or destroyed in that county.

The Sayre Fire in Sylmar began Nov. 14 and burned more than 11,200 acres and destroyed more than 600 structures, including some 480 modular homes at the Oakridge Mobile Home Park, along with nine single-family homes, 104 outbuildings and 10 commercial buildings.

California's State Supplemental Grant Program may provide assistance to fire victims beyond FEMA's limits for those who qualify, according to Maruyama.

Homeowners, renters and business owners may qualify for assistance under several federal and state programs to meet disaster-related needs.

Those who have already applied and received a packet from the U.S. Small Business Administration need to complete and return that application by Jan. 21, officials said. They may be eligible for other grant assistance, even if they don't qualify for an SBA disaster loan.

"It is important that those with fire insurance protection also register," said Mark Neveau, federal coordinating officer. "They may not know if they were under-insured until they have settled with their insurance companies. If they aren't already registered with FEMA, it might be too late then to get assistance."

Meanwhile, a hotline is in operation to provide free legal aid to those affected by the wildfires that ravaged more than 41,000 acres in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

The help is being provided by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, in conjunction with the San Fernando Valley Bar Association and the State Bar of California, with some funding from FEMA.

The toll-free number, 1-888-500-9219, is staffed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of New Year's Day.

Callers -- who do not have to be registered with FEMA -- can obtain basic legal advice on disaster-related issues, including assistance with insurance claims, home repair contracts, counseling on landlord-tenant and mortgage-foreclosure problems, replacement of lost documents and aid with consumer matters.

"These are common problems encountered by people who have suffered losses in a disaster," Neveau said. "FEMA supports this service to help assure that everyone has access to sound advice to solve basic legal issues."



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