Oakland, CA -- Within two hours of being contacted by the state, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's FEMA authorized firefighting funds to help California fight the 5,000-acre Old fire burning in San Bernardino County.
Michael D. Brown, under secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, approved the request for federal fire management assistance on October 25 at 7:43 p.m. EDT. At that time, the fire had destroyed 60 homes and posed an immediate threat to 1,000 more homes; 7,000 people were evacuated from the area. The state made the request at 6:30 p.m. EDT.
The authorization is the fourth granted to the state of California in the past week, including the Verdale fire in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties earlier today, the Grand Prix fire in San Bernardino County on October 23 and the Pass fire in Riverside County on October 21. FEMA firefighting assistance was also authorized for seven other fires in California this year, including the Bridge fire on September 6, the Locust fire on August 19, the Canyon fire on July 2, the Railroad fire on July 3, the Tejon fire on June 29, the Sawmill fire on June 28 and the Pacific fire on January 7.
Federal fire management assistance is provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. The assistance pays 75 percent of a state's eligible firefighting and emergency response costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling designated fires. Eligible state firefighting costs covered by the aid can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies; and mobilization and demobilization activities.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.