Washington, DC -- Only days after the passage of the Cerro Grande Fire Assistance Act, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced today it has begun work necessary to provide victims of the Cerro Grande fire in Los Alamos, New Mexico with compensation beyond the agency's basic disaster assistance.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton's signing of the Cerro Grande Fire Assistance Act on July 13 authorizes the special reimbursements. The Cerro Grande fire began as a National Park Service prescribed burn on May 4 at Bandelier National Monument and spread into a wildfire. The Act covers property, business and financial losses along with other expenses directly related to the fire.
"We are writing and will publish a set of simple regulations within 45 days establishing a speedy, efficient and customer-friendly claims process," Witt said. "Although the time frame is very compressed, we plan to accept and review all public comments on the regulations and compensation process."
This operation is unprecedented in FEMA history. The agency has never administered a program designed to fully compensate disaster victims. A claims office completely separate from the current disaster field office will be set up for the new effort.
"The New Mexico congressional delegation has been extremely helpful as we face this new challenge," Witt said. "I look forward to working with them and appreciate their continued support as this program moves forward."