Frustration Over FEMA Response to Fires

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Congressman Ernest Istook is asking
President Bush for immediate action on Oklahoma's request for
federal assistance in fighting wildfires across the state.

Istook has sent a letter to the president saying he's concerned
because ten days have passed since the state asked for direct
federal assistance. He says the number of acres burned have doubled
since the request for federal help was first made on December 30th
and one person has died.

The congressman says the state is making "heroic" efforts to fight the fires with limited resources and firefighters are becoming exhausted.

Istook asks President Bush to immediately declare an emergency
for the state of Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, state emergency officials say Oklahoma's request for disaster assistance because of wildfires across the state has "gone up the chain" of federal agencies.

State Emergency Management director Albert Ashwood expressed
some frustration during the weekend that the Federal Emergency
Management Agency hasn't provided more assistance.

Department spokeswoman Michelann Ooten said today the request
has been forwarded up to the US Department of Homeland Security.
Ooten says state officials have had several conference calls with
federal officials about getting help and the governor's office and
the state's congressional delegation are working to have the
request approved.

State officials declared a statewide emergency on December 30th
and asked for federal help.

Ooten says the federal agencies have offered no reason why the
request for a disaster declaration has taken so long.


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