Thousands of FEMA trailers auctioned off by the government are now for sale on dealership lots. These mobile homes and travel trailers are available to the public amid safety and economic concerns.
Discount Travel Trailers owner Ron Campbell opened up his dealership in Alexander selling former FEMA travel trailers three weeks ago. These trailers were once intended for victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Campbell bought these trailers after the government auctioned them off this January. "It's fair game for everybody," says Campbell.
But fair is not what business owners like Kevin Hawks call it. After news of the auction broke, dealers expressed concern it would negatively impact the market. "It's going to hurt manufacturers because of lack of orders and the excess inventory that's dumped out onto the market," says Hawks, owner of Hawks Mobile Homes in Conway.
Cambpell bought 1712 of these trailers and so far he's gotten 150 on the lot, and sold about 80 of them. But how safe are these? In 2008, FEMA Director David Paulison said the agency wouldn't give them out after thousands tested for high levels of formaldehyde.
Reporter asks, “Ron, do you think that people should be concerned about the formaldehyde?” “The best answer I can give you is I wouldn't be afraid for my grandkids to live in one,” responds Campbell.
Under federal law, Campbell says dealers have to tell customers about the potential danger and customers sign a disclaimer before one ever leaves his lot. "There's formaldehyde in every trailer that has ever been manufactured, travel trailer, home, whatever. If you've ever been in a place and it burns your eyes, that’s formaldehyde, it’s an ingredient in blue. If they're aired out properly, that's not a problem," says Campbell.
These trailers are going for $4,000 and Campbell tells us typically these go for about $20,000. Campbell says he expects to get the rest of his order of the next several months.
FEMA bought tens of thousands of mobile homes and travel trailers nearly five years ago. FEMA has since ordered the General Services Administration to get rid of all the excess trailers stored in Hope. Buyers partnered together to bid over $27 million for all the trailers.