One day after touring the wildfires raging out of control in Colorado, FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh announced that $20 million has been made available immediately to the state to help defray firefighting costs.
Since the beginning of this year, Colorado has received 11 fire management assistance grants from FEMA - more than the total number of grants received by the state from 1994 to 2001, a period during which eight fires were declared for fire suppression grants.
"The situation in Colorado remains extremely serious, and we want the state to be able to focus on what is of paramount importance - combating these fires," Allbaugh said. "The dedicated men and women fighting these fires should not have to worry about how the work will be paid for."
Federal fire management assistance is made available by FEMA to manage, mitigate and control fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. The $20 million is an advance against the state and local firefighting costs determined to be eligible for federal reimbursement.
Typically, federal reimbursement is not made until the state submits its cost documentation, but the extreme risk and unprecedented nature of the Colorado wildfires made it important that funds be made available immediately.
"From our years in Texas, President Bush and I both understand how dangerous wildfires can be," Allbaugh said. "We want Coloradoans to know that the federal government will be with them every step of the way."
The fire management assistance covers 75 percent of eligible state and local firefighting costs, including expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies; and mobilization and demobilization activities. The program was expanded this year to cover even more firefighting costs, such as sheltering, evacuations, traffic control and arson investigation.
FEMA fire management assistance has been authorized in Colorado this year for the Snaking fire on April 23; the Cuerna Verde fire on May 1; the Black Mountain fire on May 5; the Schoonover fire on May 23; the Iron Mountain fire on June 2; the Trinidad Complex fire on June 3; the Ute Pass fire on June 7; the Coal Seam fire on June 8; the Hayman fire on June 9; the Dierich fire on June 10; and the Missionary Ridge fire on June 11.