Rep. Gosar Sends Letter to FEMA Administrator in Support of Yarnell Hill Fire Disaster Designation Appeal

| September 6 2013

Entire Arizona Delegation Signs onto Gosar Letter    

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) signed a letter to Administrator Fugate in support of Gov. Brewer’s appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) decision to reject Arizona’s request to designate the Yarnell Hill Fire as a major disaster, which would provide relief to its victims. The entire Arizona delegation signed the letter led by Rep. Gosar, asking the Administration to ‘expeditiously’ reconsider their denial to classify the Yarnell Hill Fire a major disaster.

Below is the text of the letter sent to Administrator Fugate:

September 5, 2013

W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C St SW
Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Administrator Fugate:

We write to share our concern with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) decision to reject the State of Arizona’s request to designate the Yarnell Hill Fire a major disaster.  A disaster declaration would have made the citizens of Yavapai County, affected by the fire, eligible for federal disaster assistance. It is our understanding that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, consistent with the Stafford Act, has officially submitted an appeal.  We support the Governor’s request, and respectfully ask that the Administration act on it expeditiously.

The Yarnell Hill Fire began burning approximately 30 miles southwest of Prescott, Arizona off Highway 89 on June 28, 2013.  The blaze burned approximately 8,400 acres over fifteen days.  During the disaster, nineteen firefighters from the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew lost their lives battling fire, the sixth deadliest American firefighter disaster overall and the deadliest wildfire ever in Arizona.  Additionally, it is our understanding that the fire burned hundreds of structures, including more than twenty percent of the homes in the unincorporated community of Yarnell, located in Yavapai County.

We further understand that a significant segment of the affected Yarnell population is elderly (35%), above the age of 60 years, earning an income of less than $25,000, and is either uninsured or underinsured for this disaster—all factors that we believe FEMA should more closely weigh. Moreover, we have been informed that the neighboring community of Prescott, Arizona, has expended approximately 10% of its municipal budget addressing the added stress of firefighting activities, including covering expenses associated with the traumatic loss of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew. Finally, there remains a need for a federal Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) team to perform soil damage severity assessments and develop floodwater models that will cover the 5-year post-fire period during which the community will remain vulnerable to the threat of a catastrophic flood event. Under existing law, a federal disaster declaration would trigger that critical technical assistance to prevent and mitigate damage caused by such flooding.

On July 1, you issued a statement that declared, in part, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona.  FEMA stands behind the first responders who continue to fight the blazes across the West.”   President Obama also issued a statement on July 1, asserting that the “federal government is already assisting, and we will remain in close contact with state and local officials to provide the support they need.”  Such statements imply that the federal government will remain involved in assisting the community.

Thank you for your careful reconsideration of the Governor’s request.  We look forward to a prompt response.  As always, we ask that this matter be handled in strict accordance with the existing agency rules, regulations, and ethical guidelines.  Please do not hesitate to contact our offices with any questions.

Sincerely,

John McCain
United States Senator

Jeff Flake
United States Senator

Paul Gosar (AZ-4)
Member of Congress

Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1)
Member of Congress

Ron Barber (AZ-2)
Member of Congress

Raul Grijalva (AZ-3)
Member of Congress

Matt Salmon (AZ-5)
Member of Congress

David Schweikert (AZ-6)
Member of Congress

Ed Pastor (AZ-7)
Member of Congress

Trent Franks (AZ-8)
Member of Congress

Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9)
Member of Congress

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