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.
For more information, visit www.ready.gov/wildfires.