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Fire and Rain

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While the title of this post harkens back to a song I first heard as a small child thanks to my mother’s impeccable taste in music, it’s also an accurate depiction of events across the country over the last few weeks.

Wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres of forest across the Southeast and Plains. Rushing floodwaters and heavy rainfall have inundated areas of the Midwest—with little to no sign of relenting any time soon.

One of the things that is notably out of the norm is the prevalence of fires in the Southeast.

Out of the fourteen fire management assistance grants we’ve approved so far this year, four of them have gone to states in the Southeast—more specifically: Florida or Georgia. That’s 28 percent of the fire grants issued so far this year.

In comparison, out of all 49 of these grants approved in 2016, none were issued to Florida and only one was given to Georgia.

For those who might not know, our fire management assistance grants work to supplement funding for local departments working on the front lines of wildfires—helping to pay overtime wages, fund equipment and extra supplies or assets, as illustrated by the graphic below.

 "Fire Management Assistance Grants, Support to firefighters. • Firefighting tools and equipment • Overtime compensation • Mobilization and travel costs • Meals, health and safety items."

It’s always interesting to see the difference in disaster locales year after year, how different hazards affect different places in different ways—especially now that I’ve been here at FEMA for a while.

Generally, when wildfire season rolls around, the largest impact tends to be felt in California and other areas out west. Those are widely considered to be the areas with the most fire activity. Just last year, we issued 13 fire management assistance grants to California over the course of the year, most coming in the summer months—June through September.

That’s not the case this year.

According to CALFIRE, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, there have been 641 fires that have burned nearly 9,500 acres of land so far this year.1

In contrast, Florida has faced 2,163 separate wildfires that have scorched over 170,000 acres—and growing.2

That’s more than three times as many fires and nearly 18 times the burned acreage. These are staggering statistics and some that are not exactly easy to digest. It’s still early in the year and things could change and change quickly; as fire-related situations often do.

And of course, as these fires continue and new ones ignite, we will be monitoring them and working closely with our state counterparts in the event they ask for any further federal assistance.

Summer is when we see the most fire activity historically, and over the last two years (2015 and 2016), 63 percent of our fire management assistance grants have been issued between June 21 and September 22; the official start and end of summer.

Basically, things are just getting started (or if you’re pun-inclined like yours truly, it’s starting to heat up) and we’re ready to support states if and when they ask for assistance for events including both fire and rain—or anything else.

 

Related Content:

Sources:

  1. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) Fire Statistics
  2. Florida Forest Service (part of Florida’s Department of Agriculture)’s Current Fire Statistics
Last Updated: 
05/18/2017 - 08:59

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