OAKLAND, Calif. -? Within hours of being contacted by the state, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized firefighting funds to help California fight the Gaviota Fire burning in Santa Barbara County, Calif.
Michael D. Brown, under secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, approved the request for federal fire management assistance for the Gaviota Fire at 9:10 p.m. EDT. At that time, the 1,500-acre fire burning near Hollister Ranch by Gaviota State Park threatened approximately 200 homes and two oil refineries. No structures had been damaged at that time. The state made the request at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Approximately 500 residents were evacuated Saturday night, and were allowed to return to their homes late Sunday night. A portion of Highway 101 was closed but has been partially reopened. As of Monday morning the fire had burned more than 7500 acres and was approximately 20 percent contained.
Federal fire management assistance is provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. The assistance pays 75 percent of a state's eligible firefighting and emergency response costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. Eligible state firefighting costs covered by the aid can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies; and mobilization and demobilization activities.
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 Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.