Washington, D.C. -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has ordered federal disaster aid for people and communities in Arizona beset by the outbreak of uncontrolled wildfires that have been raging in the eastern part of the state since early last week.
FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh said the President authorized the aid under a major disaster declaration issued for the state this morning following a review of the agency?s analysis of the state?s expedited request for federal assistance. The declaration covers damage to private and public property from the wildfires that began June 18.
"Ensuring the safety and welfare of the people in the path of these treacherous fires is of the utmost importance to the President," Allbaugh said. "He has responded quickly to Governor Hull?s request, and we will work just as fast to assist all those in need while we continue to support the state?s firefighting efforts."
Immediately after the declaration, Allbaugh designated Apache and Navajo counties and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation eligible for federal aid to affected residents and business owners.
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 covered by insurance.
Additionally, Allbaugh said federal funds will be provided for the state and affected local governments in Apache and Navajo counties to pay 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and restoring road, bridges and public buildings damaged by the fires. The declaration also makes funding available to the state on a cost-shared basis for projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Allbaugh indicated that damage surveys are continuing and more counties and additional forms of assistance for state and local government agencies may be designated later based on the results of the assessments. He noted that the agency already has authorized funding to supplement the state?s costs for fighting four designated fires this year, including a $20 million advance payment that was approved yesterday.
Scott Wells of FEMA was named by Allbaugh to coordinate federal recovery operations. Wells said those who sustained losses in the jurisdictions designated for aid to affected residents and business owners 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 Wednesday, June 26, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.