Close to 70 homes are gone after the Bear Creek fire tore through parts of Cass and Marion Counties in East Texas, displacing hundreds of people. Now FEMA says those affected by the fires will be eligible for federal relief funds, along with 13 other Texas counties.
Teresa Jordan is one of those people. She says she watched her home and church burn...and it's something she'll never forget. "I told them this was the first time I've ever been homeless, because my mom's home burned too. I never considered myself homeless as long as my mother had a home."
Most of Jordan's family lived on White Oak Road in Jefferson, one of the hardest hit areas. Admiral Smith lives in Austin, but has 60 family members who lost their homes in the fire. He says they're grateful for the decision to extend the disaster area to Marion County, but it's been difficult for his family. "I sat down with each one of my family members and basically walked them through the process becuase a lot of my family have never been through anything like this so they don't understand the process," he says.
There have been several volunteer groups in the area for days, sifting through the rubble and trying to help residents clean up. Doug Sott is with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. He's from Atlanta, Texas, but he and his team have traveled to many disasters throughout the Southeast. He says this one sticks out, because it's affected his neighbors. "Some of these folks, you can see by the devastation, lost everything they had. Some of them only got out with the clothes on their backs...but there's memories in this house."
FEMA officials are beginning to comb through the area, speaking to residents who lost homes or property. If you need relief aid, go to http://www.disasterassistance.gov or call the FEMA hotline at 1-800-621-3362.