The Colorado Congressional delegation today urged President Barack Obama to support Governor John Hickenlooper's request for a Federal disaster declaration in response to the wildfires raging across the state. Governor Hickenlooper requested the declaration today.
Requests for a disaster declaration by the President must be made by the Governor of the affected state. Once the declaration is made, it would make available a number of Federal programs to assist in the response and recovery efforts. The types of assistance made available, whether individual or public, are based on the needs found during a preliminary damage assessment conducted by state and Federal officials. Types of assistance may include temporary housing, home repair or replacement, debris removal, repairs and restoration to publicly-owned facilities, among others.
"Already this year, these and other fires have burned over 200,000 acres across the state, and over 3,000 firefighters and other officials continue to work around the clock to contain the flames," the delegation wrote in a letter to the President. "Governor Hickenlooper has determined that these incidents are of such severity and magnitude that additional supplementary federal assistance is necessary to help address impacts and needs that are not being covered by existing resources."
Currently, several wildfires are burning across Colorado. The High Park Fire west of Fort Collins is the second largest in Colorado's history. It has burned more than 87,000 acres and has destroyed at least 257 homes. The Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs has burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed hundreds of homes, and has forced more than 32,000 people to evacuate.
The full text of the letter is below:
June 28, 2012
Dear Mr. President:
We write to support Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's request for a federal expedited major disaster declaration, in response to the deadly Colorado fires raging in El Paso, Larimer, Boulder, Teller, Montezuma, Archuleta, Washington, Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Tribal lands, and other counties across the state. Already this year, these and other fires have burned over 200,000 acres across the state, and over 3,000 firefighters and other officials continue to work around the clock to contain the flames. The fires have forced thousands of families to evacuate. All told, these fires have destroyed 598 homes as of today's date, and state, tribal and local officials have expended over $50 million on direct fire suppression costs, with additional funds certain to prove necessary as local residents seek temporary housing and communities work to recover.
Governor Hickenlooper has determined that these incidents are of such severity and magnitude that additional supplementary federal assistance is necessary to help address impacts and needs that are not being covered by existing resources. We respectfully request that you seriously consider the Governor's request and issue an expedited major disaster declaration as soon as possible to assist our state in combating these fires, and to provide urgently needed resources and assistance to the state, tribes, communities and especially the families who have been uprooted by these combined wildfires.
We thank you in advance for your timely consideration of this important request, and stand ready to assist in any way that may be helpful to Coloradans dealing with this situation on the ground.