The Snag Canyon Fire burned 12,667 acres in Kittitas County, Washington in August 2014. On August 3, 2014, FEMA approved a request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG), and on August 5, 2014, the Washington State Patrol (Applicant) activated its Washington State Fire Services Resource Mobilization Plan (Mobe Plan) for statewide mutual aid assistance to combat the fire. FEMA awarded Project Worksheet (PW) 3 for reimbursement of fire suppression and force account labor costs, and contract costs for career fire service labor and equipment. In a Determination Memorandum dated November 11, 2016, FEMA identified $14,640.59 in ineligible labor costs, finding that the costs were ineligible because the claimed labor hours included time spent not performing emergency work. The Applicant submitted its first appeal by a letter dated January 9, 2017, arguing that all of the claimed hours were regular shifts hours assigned by the home fire districts, and were therefore eligible. The State of Washington Military Department Emergency Management Division (Grantee) forwarded the appeal in a letter dated March 10, 2017, arguing that the Mobe Plan was a binding contract between the Applicant and local fire districts. Furthermore, the Grantee reasoned that the Mobe Plan requires firefighters to be paid a “lost-pay stipend” for any regular shift hours they would not be paid by their home district while responding to the fire. FEMA issued a Final Request for Information (RFI) on June 1, 2017, requesting information to show that all claimed labor costs were eligible. The Grantee responded via a memorandum dated June 30, 2017, arguing that not only did the claimed hours encompass lost-pay stipends, but the time spent not working was eligible as time spent sleeping and eating meals. FEMA Region X issued its first appeal determination on March 12, 2018. The Regional Administrator (RA) found that while the Mobe Plan constituted a legal agreement between the Applicant and local fire entities, it did not impose any legal obligations on FEMA. Moreover, even if the Mobe Plan contractually required payment of 24-hour shifts, FEMA policy did not allow reimbursement of such shifts. Lastly, the RA found that due to errors in calculating the labor costs, FEMA would award an additional $2,801.37. The Applicant submitted its second appeal via letter dated May 18, 2018, and the Grantee transmitted the second appeal via letter dated July 10, 2018.
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 claimed on second appeal were spent conducting emergency firefighting activities, therefore, the labor costs are not eligible for FEMA reimbursement.
- FEMA Recovery Policy 9525.7 – Labor Costs – Emergency Work provides that 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.
Conclusion: The Applicant has not demonstrated that the labor costs are eligible as time spent conducting emergency work. Moreover, even if the Mobe Plan is a contract between the Applicant and local fire districts, it does not bind FEMA and FEMA policy does not allow for reimbursement of time spent not conducting emergency work.