The state is set to get federal help for the victims of the Homer wildfire, but not for victims of flooding in the interior.
Right now, the state’s Office of Homeland Security command center is handling everything from floods, fires, H1N1 flu, and Mount Redoubt. But when it comes to help, the governor has to request federal assistance, except for oil spills and wildfires.
“We only attempt the FEMA reimbursement when it’s basically a wild or urban interface or if it involves the threat of life and structures,” said John See, a fire management officer with the Division of Forestry.
Today, FEMA authorized the use of federal dollars to help with the East End Road fire in Homer. This will assist the state’s fire fighting effort, financially, with the feds picking up 75% of the costs and the state picking up the rest of the tab. “Fire fighting is a very costly endeavor,” said See, “our budget doesn’t really allow for large fires in the wild and urban interface which can require extending large amounts of money.”
According to FEMA, there are a couple different avenues to obtain federal assistance. The state’s primary agency for fighting wildfires, the Department of Natural Resources can request federal assistance without the governor. And though the governor has not requested FEMA assistance for the floods, Robert Forgit, Alaska’s area office manager for FEMA, say’s they are on stand by. “In the case in the floods the state is doing the response efforts on their own and they do not request that but when they do we are standing by and ready to provide that.”
FEMA says it will have a better idea if the state will request federal assistance with the communities after it assessed the damage. “At the point they make an assessment that they find that the they do indeed things there is enough recovery costs or response cost that they would need from the federal government then we could go in there with them and do a preliminary damage assessment,” says Forgit.
Last week, the governor declared a state disaster for the floods, authorizing state response teams to use money from the state’s disaster fund. The governor says right now, crews are assessing the flooding damages and what they find will determine whether the state needs federal help.