From July 19 to July 22, 2014, firefighters battled the Watermelon Hill Fire in Washington State. As a result, the Washington State Patrol (Applicant) activated the Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan (Mobe Plan) to provide statewide mutual aid resources to address the fire. In addition to activating the Mobe Plan, the Applicant requested assistance from FEMA. The Region X Regional Administrator (RA) approved a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) and FEMA awarded Project Worksheet (PW) 6 to reimburse labor costs for fire mitigation, management, and control during the designated incident period. FEMA later identified ineligible labor costs totaling $17,163.94, in a Determination Memorandum dated October 18, 2016. FEMA found that some of the claimed regular shift hours did not include time spent performing emergency work and that some of the hours occurred outside of the incident period. The Applicant appealed the Determination Memorandum via a letter dated December 19, 2016, arguing that the Mobe Plan was a contractual agreement that required reimbursement of the regular shift hours of career fire personnel, and that FEMA needed to honor that agreement. In addition, the Applicant disagreed that some of the hours were completed outside the incident period. The State of Washington Military Department Emergency Management Division (Grantee) transferred the Applicant’s appeal by a letter dated February 17, 2017, supporting the Applicant’s arguments. FEMA denied the appeal on March 12, 2018, finding that some of the hours were not spent doing emergency work. However, FEMA determined that it had miscalculated the hours worked for one firefighter, and consequently, awarded an additional $272.34. Finally, FEMA found that it correctly determined that $16,139.60 in costs were ineligible because work was done outside the incident period. The Applicant submitted its second appeal via a letter dated May 18, 2018, and the Grantee transmitted it on July 10, 2018, renewing the arguments that it had made on first appeal, but withdrawing its argument regarding the incident period.
Authorities and Second Appeals
- Stafford Act § 420.
- 44 C.F.R. §§ 13.3, 13.36, 204.1-204.64.
- FEMA Recovery Policy 9525.7, Labor Costs – Emergency Work (Nov. 16, 2006).
- FEMA Recovery Policy 9523.6, Mutual Aid Agreements for Public Assistance and Fire Management (Nov. 10, 2012).
- FEMA Second Appeal Analysis, Washington State Patrol, FEMA-5059-FM-WA, at 3-4 (May 14, 2018); FEMA Second Appeal Analysis, Town of Nichols, FEMA-4031-DR-NY, at 5 (May 10, 2018) (citing FEMA Second Appeal Analysis, Village of Waterford, FEMA-4020-DR-NY, at 4 (Sept. 4, 2014)).
- FEMA will reimburse labor costs associated with fire suppression activities under mutual aid agreements, but only for time spent conducting emergency work.
- The Applicant has not demonstrated that the hours the Applicant claims on second appeal were spent conducting emergency firefighting activities, therefore, the labor costs are not eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
- FEMA RP9525.7 – Labor Costs – Emergency Work provides that FEMA will reimburse only labor costs for time spent conducting emergency work, even if an applicant is obligated by contract to fund 24-hour shifts.
- Even if the Mobe Plan is a contract between the Applicant and local fire districts that requires reimbursement of 24-hour shifts, FEMA policy does not allow reimbursement for time spent not conducting emergency work.
The Applicant has not demonstrated that the labor costs claimed on second appeal include time spent conducting emergency work. In addition, even if the Mobe Plan is a contract that requires the Applicant to reimburse firefighters for their entire 24-hour shifts, the Mobe Plan does not bind FEMA and FEMA policy does not allow for reimbursement of time not spent performing emergency work.