Aid comes quickly to Creek, Payne fire victims
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2012
9/09/12 at 7:32 AM
See slideshows, view aerial video and read more stories about the Creek County wildfires.
MANNFORD - Ed and Mary Jones' home was gone in an instant after flames began whipping over the tops of trees behind their 22-acre property on Aug. 4.
But the help they have received since that devastation came quickly, as well.
Mary Jones said the Tulsa Area Chapter of the American Red Cross helped them replace and equip a well house and assisted them with transportation costs and medical needs.
"If it wasn't for the Red Cross stepping up, I would still not have any clothes," she said. "The churches have helped us out a lot with canned food and water. Thank God for them."
Spokeswoman Donita Quesnel said the Red Cross has spent close to $500,000 so far on the disaster response in Creek County.
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation will still be matching donations up to a total of $100,000 made to the Red Cross through Sept. 22.
Elizabeth Frame Ellison, executive director of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, said the goal has been more than halfway met.
"We've been really happy with the response, but we still have a ways to go," she said.
Donations have come from people across the state.
"One kid had his piggy bank that he brought in," Frame Ellison said.
The donations will benefit wildfire victims in Creek and Payne counties.
Federal assistance has been granted for individuals in Creek County, but Payne County was not included in the president's disaster declaration.
"When we found out Payne was denied any FEMA funding, we thought we should probably add them in because they're really in a bad situation," Frame Ellison said.
The Joneses are staying with a family member in Broken Arrow but plan to move back to their scorched acreage now that a family member has provided a fifth-wheel camper for them to live in while a new home is built.
"They say home is where the heart is, and that's where our heart is - at home," Jones said. "This fire has made us stronger."
A roadblock kept Jones from going home Aug. 3. Her husband was already home and stayed overnight with no problems. Their home, which sat more than 100 yards away from Oklahoma 48 and couldn't be seen from the highway, was not evacuated.
The couple spoke on the phone, and he told her the fire wasn't even close to their heavily wooded property.
He called her the next day to say the fire was contained, but then he called later that afternoon with bad news.
"I got a devastating phone call from my husband saying we lost everything," Jones said.
That included their house, three outbuildings and a beloved quarter-horse named Sassy.
A mention of the horse brings Jones to tears.
"I'm just glad my husband, my dogs and cat made it," she said.
Ed Jones had fled with their pets and a few clothes when he saw 20-foot flames above a 30-foot tree, Mary Jones said.
Flames were whipping behind him, and there wasn't enough time to load Sassy into a trailer.
"When there's trouble, horses take to the trees for cover," Mary Jones said.
On Sunday, the family returned to their property.
"We had to show proof that we lived in the area, which I thought was a good thing. They already had a lot of looters in the area," she said.
When they got back, they saw that their house was a pile of rubble.
"It reminded me of old black-and-white scary movies where you see all black trees and black soil on the ground. It was just awful," she said.
Ed Jones' motorcycle was melted on the ground.
"I'm like, 'Oh, my God! That was one heck of a hot fire!' " Mary Jones said.
Strangely, other things survived: a Ford dually pickup, a small flatbed trailer Ed's father, Floyd Jones, had given them, a wooden swing and a grill.
Mary Jones said their house was in the process of being sided and that the insurance company would not insure it until the job was complete.
"The fire took it away from us, anyway," she said.
Jones said family members with equipment cleared the site for them and that the property is now ready for a new structure to be erected. Through the federal disaster declaration, the couple has received a FEMA grant and has been approved for a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration.
Jones said the Red Cross was so quick and willing to help that she now plans to donate to the organization regularly through an automatic deduction.
"They were that quick to help me. I want to be that quick to help them," she said. "It might only be $10 a month, but it's better than nothing."
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation challenge grant ends Sept. 22. Those wishing to donate can make a secure donation online at tulsaworld.com/tulsacf
Donations may also be submitted by check payable to Tulsa Community Foundation, Oklahoma Wildfire Fund. Mail to: Tulsa Community Foundation, 7030 S. Yale Ave, Tulsa, OK 74136.
For more information on the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation challenge grant or the American Red Cross Wildfire Relief Fund, contact Elizabeth Frame Ellison at 918-583-2955 or Steffanie Bonner at 918-494-8823.
Donations can also be made at any of the Bank of Oklahoma's 86 branches across the state. The name of the account - Oklahoma Wildfire Fund - should be noted with the donation. Cash, checks and money orders are accepted.
Donations are also accepted via mail and can be sent to:
Bank of Oklahoma
Attn: Sarah Hall
PO Box 2300
Tulsa, OK 74172
Original Print Headline: Aid comes fast to fire victims
Susan Hylton 918-581-8381
Mary Jones discusses a wildfire that destroyed her home near Mannford. She and her husband are preparing a travel trailer to act as a temporary home until her family can rebuild. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
A smoker is one of the few things that survived a wildfire that destroyed Mary Jones' home near Mannford on Aug. 4. Since the blaze, Jones and her family have lived with a relative in Broken Arrow, but they are preparing to move into a travel trailer, seen behind her. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World