Attorney General Hunter (right) meets with a local rancher outside of Camargo at a volunteer supply distribution center. The rancher was picking up wire to repair miles of fence destroyed on his property during the wildfires.
WOODWARD – Attorney General Mike Hunter on Tuesday joined Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey for a tour of Western Oklahoma farms and ranches damaged by the recent wildfires.
While meeting with residents, Attorney General Hunter handed out disaster scam packets from his office and cautioned individuals to be wary of potential scams and fly-by-night companies that could be targeting the area.
“Meeting with those affected and seeing the devastation firsthand puts this heartbreaking tragedy into perspective,” Attorney General Hunter said. “This community has suffered greatly. Some lost loved ones, homes, livestock, their livelihoods and much more. As public officials during this time of recovery, it is our job to assure them that we stand by, ready to assist by any means necessary.
“After a disaster, we unfortunately see predators who want to take advantage of these victims in their vulnerable state. That is why it is important for my office to partner with organizations like the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, to put boots on the ground and send a clear message to would-be con artists that if they attempt to benefit off Oklahomans in their time of need, my office will prosecute to hold them accountable.”
The wildfires that ravaged Western Oklahoma tragically claimed two lives, while burning an excess of 300,000 acres, destroying more than 60 homes and killing hundreds of livestock. Authorities on yesterday’s tour said the fire spread rapidly, burning up to 137 acres per minute and consuming 8,250 acres per hour.
“During the recovery process, it is vital for organizations like the Cattlemen’s Association to work with state officials like Attorney General Hunter to spread information to individuals, who are not only left defenseless by the disaster, but also looking to rebuild,” said Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey. “We greatly appreciate the attorney general for his leadership and for coming to Western Oklahoma to let the members of this community know their concerns are his concerns.”
Joining Attorney General Hunter and Kelsey on the tour was life-long rancher and Senior Vice President of the Bank of Western Oklahoma Joe Farris, who lost dozens of cattle and had hundreds of acres of land during the wildfires.
Farris detailed the damage and praised the efforts of individuals and volunteers in the aftermath.
One stop on the tour was in Camargo at one of the six volunteer supply distribution centers set up in communities around Western Oklahoma to assist farmers and ranchers who lost hay, fences and other material in the fire. The centers also carry donated items like soap, water and living essentials.
“As we have seen in the past, tragedies like these have made Oklahomans stronger and more resilient,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Seeing and meeting people like Katrina Bryant and her husband Jimmy, who volunteer their time, resources and land to set up a distribution center to help those in need embodies the Oklahoma Standard. Continued volunteer efforts like theirs, matched with great organizations like the Cattlemen’s Association, I am certain this community will grow stronger.”
For more pictures of yesterday’s tour, click here: http://www.oag.ok.gov/gallery.