Help Available for Homeowners Affected By April Wildfires

It's been almost a month since the devastating wildfires struck Wichita County.  Dozens of homes were lost, millions in damage and now the U.S. Small Business Administration is stepping in to help.  The administration is offering low interest federal disaster loans to homeowners and businesses who were affected by the wildfires.

Weeks after the devastating wildfires homes still lay in ruin awaiting a new beginning.

"Smelled the smoke, saw the smoke, but by the time I actually saw the smoke it was a little too late," said Ralph Merkle, who lives off Tinker Trail in Wichita Falls.

Merkle's shed was burned from the fire, all his power tools and lawn mower were stationed inside, but when the fire behind his yard sparked, his shed couldn't be saved.

"I've been in the process of having to re-build a new fence, having to go out and buy all new power tools," he said.

For Merkle help is coming from his insurance others aren't so lucky; that's where the U.S. Small
Business Administration comes in.

"We're offering low interest disaster loans available to homeowners, renters, and small businesses for Wichita County and the neighboring Texas counties of Archer, Baylor, Clay, Wilbarger, and the neighboring Oklahoma counties of Cotton and Tillman," said Ben Raju, PIO with the administration .

It's a disaster outreach coming in the form of loans.  For many this could be the only help received aside from Red Cross.  Since President Obama has not declared this a disaster area outside help is unlikely.  The Small Business Administration is forking up loans with interest rates as low as 2.5 percent and a cash turnaround typically in two weeks.

"The big thing is for folks not to disqualify themselves and think they can't be offered some kind of assistance," said Raju.

"It's great.  I know there's going to be a lot of people that are going to need it," said Merkle.

That help is for all counties bordering Wichita that were affected by the fires between April 15 through April 20.  Raju said Young County was not included in the disaster assistance because most of the homes damaged were secondary homes and not primary.

Officials with the Small Business Administration will be set up at the library beginning tomorrow at 9 am until 4:30 pm and running until Thursday May 26.

Crystal Hall Newschannel 6.