3:13 pm - Thursday December 17, 5339

Napolitano and Vilsack’s Visit States Affected by Wildfires

BOISE, Idaho-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary
of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Fire Administrator Chief Ernest
Mitchell today visited Colorado and Idaho to survey ongoing wildfire
response efforts on the ground, thank first responders battling the
fires, meet with state and local officials and underscore the
Administration’s support for impacted communities.

“DHS and FEMA are working closely with our federal partners including
the Forest Service, the Department of Interior and the Department of
Defense, to support state and local efforts,” said Secretary Napolitano.
“Our first priority remains public safety – and that means ensuring that
people are out of harm’s way. Those residents in the impacted areas
should continue to listen to local authorities and follow their guidance
and instructions.”

“Today I saw the tireless efforts of our nation’s firefighters, first
responders and volunteers as they protected and supported those affected
by wildfires in the West,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Our hearts go out to
those who have lost loved ones and homes and we continue to honor the
memories of heroes who have sacrificed so much to keep fellow Americans
out of harm’s way. The Forest Service will continue to work with local,
state and other federal partners to supply the resources needed to
contain these fires.”

In Colorado, Secretaries Napolitano and Vilsack, and Chief Mitchell met
with federal, state and local firefighters and volunteers and surveyed
affected areas.

This morning, FEMA approved two additional Fire Management Assistance
Grants (FMAGs) for the Shingles Fire in Kane County, Utah and for the
Oil Creek Fire in Weston County, Wyoming. Yesterday, FEMA approved an
FMAG for the Squirrel Creek Fire in Albany County, Wyoming. This brings
the overall total number of FMAGs approved for states during this fire
season to 24. Other states that have received these important grants
include Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas. FEMA has
deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team to the Colorado
Emergency Operations Center to work side-by-side with the Colorado
Division of Emergency Management to monitor and support the firefighting
efforts and has a representative in the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination
Center, which is coordinating the federal response to the wildfires in
Colorado and Wyoming.

Fire Management Assistance Grants are provided through the Disaster
Relief Fund and made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that
threaten to cause a major disaster. The program allows for the
“mitigation, management, and control” of fires burning on publicly or
privately owned forest or grasslands, which threaten such destruction as
would constitute a major disaster. An FMAG authorization makes FEMA
funding available to pay 75 percent of the state’s eligible firefighting
costs under an approved grant for managing, mitigating and controlling
designated fires during an incident period. These grants do not provide
assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other
infrastructure damage caused by the fire.

The major disaster declaration for Colorado, approved by President
Obama on June 29, makes federal funding available to state and eligible
local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a
cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including direct
Federal assistance, for El Paso and Larimer Counties impacted by the
High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires. Federal funding is also available for
Crisis Counseling and Disaster Unemployment Assistance for affected
individuals in El Paso and Larimer Counties impacted by the High Park
and Waldo Canyon Fires.

In Colorado, Secretary Vilsack has designated all counties as primary
Secretarially designated natural disaster counties, except Delta and San
Juan which are contiguous disaster counties, due to the damage caused by
drought, excessive heat, and high winds. This designation makes all
qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low
interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided that
eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have
eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help
cover part of their actual losses.

In Boise, Secretaries Napolitano and Vilsack, and Chief Mitchell visited
the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). Through the NIFC, which
coordinates resources from the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of
the Interior (DOI) and other federal agencies, firefighters, incident
management teams, airtankers, helicopters, fire engines and other
resources are being provided to supplement state and local resources as
teams continue to respond to fires across the West.

On average, the USDA Forest Service and the Department of the Interior
bureaus respond to about 16,500 wildfires per year that occur on land
under their jurisdiction and assist state and local agencies in
responding to a significant number of the approximately 60,000 wildfires
per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction. Federal
firefighters, aircraft, and ground equipment are strategically assigned
to parts of the country as the fire season shifts across the nation.
Firefighting experts will continuously monitor conditions and move these
assets as necessary to be best positioned and increase initial response
capabilities. In addition, federal agencies are conducting accelerated
restoration activities nationwide aimed at healthier forests and reduced
fire risks in the years to come.

Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Napolitano, FEMA is
continuing close, regular coordination with the leading federal
agencies, state, tribal and local partners, as well as private sector
groups, faith-based and voluntary organizations. FEMA encourages
everyone to take steps to ensure their families, homes and businesses
are prepared for a possible emergency.

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