Wildfire Assistance

Wildfire Assistance

3 December 2008

published by www.sanfernandosun.com

USA — Disaster assistance for local governments of LosAngeles, Orange and Santa Barbara counties that suffered wildfire damage has been expanded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency announced Wednesday.

Besides the initial federal, state and local assistance for community wildfire-related debris removal and emergency protective services, the counties may be eligible to receive aid for the repair, restoration and replacement of damaged public facilities including roads and bridges, water facilities, public buildings and equipment, public utilities and recreational and other public facilities, FEMAofficials said.

“Funding for these civic restoration projects is shared jointly — 75 percent federal and 25 percent state and local sources,” said Mark Neveau, federal coordinating officer.

The Southland wildfires that occurred earlier this month ravaged more than 41,000 acres in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties and destroyed hundreds of residences. Under the FEMA public assistance program, eligible applicants include state government agencies and departments, local governments — county, city, town and districts and certain private nonprofit organizations providing educational, utility, emergency, medical, custodial care and other governmental- like services.

“Akey part of the recovery process is helping communities repair and restore their damaged public facilities,” said state Coordinating Officer TomMaruyama.

Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and Santa Barbara counties are designated for federal and state individual assistance. Individual assistance includes housing assistance for damages related to the wildfires and U.S. Small Business low-interest disaster loans. Riverside County also receives public assistance for debris removal and emergency protective serves.

So far, Californians who suffered losses from the wildfires have been approved for more than $1.43 million in disaster assistance, according to FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. About $1.2million of that amount is in the hands of applicants.

“It’s important for homeowners, renters and business owners to call FEMA’s toll-free registration numb(800) 621-3362 or go online at www.fema.gov and register for federal-state aid if they had wildfire damages,” Neveau said.

The current federal-state disaster aid tally is 1,419 applicants registered, $1,431,640 in grants approved for housing assistance, 655 home inspections completed and 1,994 applicant visits to either LocalAssistance Centers or Disaster Recovery Centers.

“Disaster recovery funds help residents get back to their normal lives,” Maruyama said. “Although that’s not easy after a traumatic event, FEMA and OES can help.”

Meantime, a Long Term Recovery Committee comprised of federal, state, local and private nonprofit agencies has formed to address the needs of wildfire survivors in Los Angeles County.

Among the committee’s concerns is the loss of durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers, experienced by many seniors impacted by the Sayre wildfire, LTRC officials said.

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a special needs coordinator working on the durable medical equipment losses and other issues faced by disaster survivors,” Neveau said. The LTRCs include representatives from voluntary nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations and community organizations.

As they form, the committees may receive guidance from FEMA, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and nationallevel voluntary agencies. After local, state and federal disaster recovery organizations have completed their missions, the LTRC steps in and may be able to assist those still in need.             

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