Family displaced from FEMA trailer fire

August 8, 2006
By Theresa Schmidt

Clayton and Janice O'Blanc have lived in this trailer off Ravia Road for some twenty years. The tragic fire that killed Ellen Schools was right next door. From a distance damage to the O'Blanc's trailer might not look too severe, but closer inspection shows the heat was intense. Clayton says the heat melted insulation and probably wiring, so he's without power on one side. "All the insulation on the south side is burnt out. I'm afraid there's wiring messed up in there. I've got the power shut off on the south side because I'm not going to take a chance of a fire starting."

O'Blanc figures since it was a FEMA trailer that burned it's up to FEMA to make it right for him, but: "Referred me to a lady in Washington D.C. When I finally got a hold of her, she was telling me that basically what I needed to do was just get a lawyer because it could take anywhere from six months to eighteen months before they even decide anything. I'm very upset because my house is not livable because right now, a fire could start. I'm moving out this weekend."

O'Blanc and his wife were just getting past Hurricane Rita as far as repairs to their home and now this. "I had to redo my roof and different spots in it. We're not through but we got a lot of it done, replaced all the skirting. You just get it back and then something happens and it's down again and then fema goes and tells me, 'no,' they won't help me the first time and then they tell me, 'no, get a lawyer. Fix it again.' it's not right."

O'Blanc says he was turned down for FEMA help after Rita and spent eight thousand dollars out of his own pocket. He expects repairs from the fire to cost about 32 thousand dollars. For now the family will live in a rent house owned by relatives.

A spokesman for FEMA says they are aware of the O'Blanc's situation and are investigating. A spokesman for the State Fire Marshal's Office says their investigation shows the FEMA trailer fire started at a recliner in the living area possibly from a cigarette or candle. Spokesman Mark Reech says there is no evidence the cause of the fire is related to the FEMA trailer itself.