By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
July 11, 2018
EASTPONIT, Fla. (CNS) -- Two weeks ago a controlled burn got out of hand and destroyed 36 homes in Eastpoint.
Donated food and a $5,000 per household emergency cash outlay by the state have tided them over.
So far the state has dispersed $125,000 to 26 individuals.
“Nothing like this is healed overnight. It takes a little time, but I think we're heading in the right direction,” said Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith.
Local officials say the disaster caught everyone off guard, making the relief effort especially daunting.
“A lot of people that were affected were living day to day and doing the best they could and that's what they're doing now,” said Chair of the Franklin County Commission Smokey Parrish.
Housing has remained the most pressing issue.
Since the fire, residents have had to find their own shelter.
Some have stayed with family or neighbors while others camped out on their lots or in their cars.
The State Division of Emergency Management has helped secure 24 trailers that will provide temporary shelter to victims.
The first wave was scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning.
Upon arrival, trailers will be furnished and cleaned with help from the Franklin County Sheriffs Office.
Officials hope the victims can begin moving in by early next week.
The Franklin County Sheriffs Office has also acquired additional housing through more than $200,000 in donations.
“We had three 5th-wheel travel trailers that were donated to us and one of them we were able to put with a resident yesterday,” said Sheriff Smith. "A lady who had just gotten out of the hospital.”
The goal is to secure permanent housing for all of the victims within six months.
It’s still uncertain when and how victims will be compensated as the investigation continues.
“They need to step forward and help these people and move forward,” said Parrish. "Lawyering up and taking four years to help these people, it's just reprehensible. “
The company contracted by the state to oversee the controlled burn, Wildlands Fire Service Inc. had a $5 million insurance policy.
Early damage estimates put the total cost of the disaster at around $1.7 million.
You can help the relief effort by contributing to the GoFundMe page set up by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.