Washington, D.C. -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has declared a major disaster for Colorado, triggering the release of federal disaster funds for people besieged by wildfires that have raged across the state since early this year.
FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh said the President took the action following a review of the agency's analysis of the state's request for federal assistance. The declaration covers damage to private property from wildfires that began April 23.
"The President's declaration expresses his deep concern for the safety and welfare of the many families that have stood in path of these unprecedented firestorms," Allbaugh said. "The assistance he ordered today provides the means for helping them to recover from their losses as we continue to support the state's firefighting efforts."
After the declaration, Allbaugh designated the following jurisdictions eligible for aid to affected residents and business owners: the counties of Adams, Alamosa, Arapahoe, Archuleta, Baca, Bent, Boulder, Broomfield and the city of Broomfield, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Clear Creek, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Denver and the city of Denver, Dolores, Douglas, Eagle, Elbert, El Paso, Fremont, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Jefferson, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Lake, La Plata, Las Animas, Lincoln, Mesa, Mineral, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Park, Pitkin, Pueblo, Rio Blanco, Rio Grande, Routt, Saguache, San Juan, San Miguel, Summit, Teller, Washington and Yuma, and the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain reservations.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs and other serious disaster related expenses. Low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
In addition, Allbaugh said federal funding will be provided for the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that damage surveys are continuing as areas become accessible and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated later based on the results of the assessments.
Besides today's aid, Allbaugh noted that the agency already has authorized funding to supplement the state's costs for fighting 11 designated fires, including a $20 million advance payment that was made to state last week
Steven R. Emory of FEMA was named by Allbaugh to coordinate federal recovery operations. Emory said affected residents and business owners in the designated counties can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll free telephone numbers will be available starting Thursday, June 20, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.