Colorado Congressional Delegation Urges FEMA to Expand Wildfire Disaster Declaration

The Colorado congressional delegation sent a letter today to Administrator Craig Fugate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency asking that he expand the disaster declaration to provide public assistance for communities that were affected by Larimer County’s Woodland Heights Fire and Washington County’s Last Chance Fire in addition to the devastating High Park and Waldo Canyon fires. These fires burned around the same time as the record-setting High Park and Waldo Canyon fires and also caused considerable damage to public infrastructure.

“Our extreme drought and weather conditions led to significant fires across the state, including 19 Colorado wildfires that were fought during the same incident period as the current declaration,” the delegation wrote in the letter. “This volley of wildfires within a short period of time brought a heavy burden on state and local resources and caused significant and costly damage to electric transmission systems, transportation and water infrastructure, public buildings, and other public infrastructure. The assistance provided from the requested expansion will be critical to ensure we protect public health and safety.”

The new request for expanded Public Assistance would make communities affected by the Waldo Canyon, High Park, Woodland Heights and Last Chance fires eligible for financial assistance to repair, replace, or restore public infrastructure that was damaged by the wildfire. This letter follows a previous letter the Colorado congressional delegation sent in support of the Governor’s request to expand the major Presidential disaster declaration to include housing support, small business disaster loans, and other individual assistance for victims of the Colorado wildfires in El Paso and Larimer Counties. These additional requests submitted by Gov. John Hickenlooper come as a result of additional damage assessments that followed President Obama’s initial disaster declaration on June 28, 2012.

Access the letter by clicking HERE or reading below.

Administrator Craig Fugate
Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Mr. Fugate:

We write again to thank you for the expedited review and major Presidential disaster declaration for the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires on June 28, 2012 (FEMA-4067-DR-CO). As you know, the preliminary damage assessments have now been completed, and we wrote to you on July 19 to request additional Individual Assistance programs for housing support and other financial assistance to Colorado families and businesses. We are now writing to request an additional expansion of the declaration. Specifically, we support Governor Hickenlooper’s request to include other fires that were fought during the same incident period, Public Assistance (categories A through G), the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, and the activation of Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Programs. Our extreme drought and weather conditions led to significant fires across the state, including 19 Colorado wildfires that were fought during the same incident period as the current declaration. This volley of wildfires within a short period of time brought a heavy burden on state and local resources and caused significant and costly damage to electric transmission systems, transportation and water infrastructure, public buildings, and other public infrastructure. The assistance provided from the requested expansion will be critical to ensure we protect public health and safety.

We support expanding the geographic scope of the disaster to include the Woodland Heights Fire (Larimer County) and the Last Chance Fire (Washington County), which caused significant damage to public infrastructure in these communities. In particular, the fast-moving Last Chance Fire caused an estimated $1,189,571 in public infrastructure damage to Washington County. Since this rural county has a population of under 5,000, this damage exceeds the community’s ability to recover. In addition to the estimated costs included in your damage assessments, please take into careful consideration the considerable costs from the wildfires that are not eligible under the Stafford Act. For example, Colorado communities, business and agriculture depend heavily on water storage facilities to provide a safe water supply; however, as a result of wildfire damage, many water providers will now be forced to take costly actions to repair and enhance water infrastructure to protect public health. Additional maintenance of roads, culverts, stormwater systems and bridges has placed additional financial burdens on public works departments that will likely face ongoing challenges to mitigate debris flows, sedimentation, lost reservoir storage and decreased water quality as a result of runoff from the burned areas. Any assistance that would come through expanding the disaster declaration would undoubtedly help ensure that affected communities can recover and help mitigate the effects of future wildfires.

We hope to have your reviews of this request, as well as the previous request for expanded Individual Assistance, concluded as quickly as practicable. We appreciate your efforts remain ready to assist in any way possible.