PASADENA, Calif. -- The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced $30 million in public assistance funding to the California Department of Forestry and Fire (CDF) for eligible costs incurred to fight the recent Southern California wildfires.
Under FEMA’s Public Assistance program, state and local governments, Native American tribes, and certain private non-profit organizations in the disaster-designated counties may be eligible for assistance in paying for costs incurred in the disaster.
“It is important to understand that when fire overwhelms the state’s ability to cover the costs of battling these blazes, there are programs to provide the necessary assistance,” said Michael D. Brown, under secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response. “States should not have the added burden of worrying where funding will come from when the firefighters are battling to save lives and property.”
The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services administers the Public Assistance program. FEMA provided 75 percent of the $40 million in firefighting costs, with the remaining 25 percent coming from the State of California. CDF is currently gathering firefighting cost documentation to determine reimbursement amounts for each of the approximately 50 local fire departments that responded to the fires.
The Public Assistance program funds essential government costs. The categories of expenses eligible for assistance can include debris removal; immediate protective measures, including overtime pay for emergency workers; repair of roads and bridges; repair of water control facilities; repair of public buildings and equipment; repair of public utilities; and repair of recreational facilities such as parks.
At the onset of the fires, conditions in the area were extremely dry due to the ongoing drought conditions coupled with low humidity levels. Periodic "Santa Ana" wind gusts to 60 MPH pushed the fires over rough terrain causing long-range spotting and unpredictable conditions. The fires ultimately consumed over 700,000 acres, destroyed more than 3,600 homes, caused 22 fatalities, and injured 224 people before being brought under control.
The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services coordinates overall state agency response to major disasters in support of local government. The office is responsible for ensuring California’s readiness to respond to and recover from natural, manmade and emergencies and for assisting local governments in their emergency preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery efforts.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.