PASADENA, Calif. -- The two major firestorms that raged through Southern California in 2003 and 2007 share several notable similarities. Both began in the third week of October during periods of high temperatures, low humidity and gusty Santa Ana winds; both received federal disaster declarations in the fourth week of October; the 2003 fires spread through five of the seven counties affected in 2007; both closed registration for federal and state assistance to individuals on January 9; both were expanded to include eligible mud- and debris-flow losses.
Beyond the commonalities, however, are many significant differences. During October and November 2003, 16 wildfires consumed almost 740,000 acres, resulting in $218 million in disaster recovery funding at the four-month mark. The 24 fires that burned during the same period in 2007 consumed more than 522,000 acres and funding disbursement to date is $144 million.
Despite the fact that more fires burned in 2007 than in 2003, fewer acres burned in 2007, fewer lives were lost and fewer structures were destroyed. State and federal officials agree that this is the result of increased public education, better multi-jurisdictional planning (local, state and federal agencies), and improved firefighting tools and techniques.
"It's clear that the initiatives implemented so far at the direction of the Blue Ribbon Commission had a positive result in the recent fires," said Mike Hall of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Henry Renteria of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. "Nonetheless, we recognize that more work has to be done by individuals and all levels of government."
Now, four months into the disaster, here is a breakout of funding for 2007 response and recovery efforts in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties:
- $84 million in SBA loans ($73 million to homeowners/renters and $11 million to
- $13.7 million in grants disbursed to homeowners/renters;
- $2 million in state supplemental grants to homeowners/renters;
- $46 million in public assistance funding to local governments, special districts and eligible nonprofits.
Long-term recovery efforts have begun throughout the affected counties and 12 affected reservations, including Barona, Inaja, Jamul, La Jolla, Mesa Grande, Pala, Pauma, Pechanga, Rincon, San Pasqual, Santa Ysabel, and Viejas.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.