Damage Estimates Mount; Beware of Scams

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma officials say the damage from grass
fires burning across the state will reach into the millions of dollars. But the exact total won't be known until a statewide assessment is performed.

Michelle Finch with the state Forestry Division says a preliminary estimate prepared on Saturday put the damage at $10 million. Finch says the estimate was reached by putting a $50,000 value to each building destroyed, but some of the destroyed homes were worth far more than that. And the preliminary estimate doesn't include damages to
buildings that weren't destroyed or crop damage.

Finch says foresters are focusing on containing the fires and
will assess the damage once they are out.

Meanwhile, Texas officials are warning fire victims to beware of scam artists. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says some crooks may be offering to repair or rebuild property.

Officials say Texas grass fires -- since late December -- killed three people, burned more than 250-thousand acres and destroyed at least 250 homes

Abbott today urged victims to get more than one estimate, ask the Better Business Bureau for a contractor's complaint record and get and check references from previous customers.

He also urges potential customers to get a salesperson's license plate number, deal with local firms where possible, and get and keep all agreements and guarantees in writing.

Abbott says customers also should ask whether the contractor will place a lien, security interest or mortgage on their property.