President Obama late yesterday approved a request by Gov. Jay Inslee for an Emergency Declaration to make additional federal resources available to help with the ongoing response to wildfires in Washington state. This assistance will help address power outages in areas where electric infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, and will also assist with debris removal.
“These additional resources will significantly help our efforts to restore power to thousands of people affected by these fires,” Inslee said. “When I spoke to the president yesterday he indicated he was committed to doing everything he could to help and it’s clear he meant it. I appreciate his prompt response and partnership in helping our state.”
The governor spoke with the president during his visit to the state yesterday, and provided him with an update on the fires. The governor also requested additional federal resources including assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help with assessment, planning, and installation of emergency power generators to restore power to facilities determined critical to the well-being of fire-damaged communities. These include water and waste water treatment systems, and other municipal facilities. The president readily agreed to provide this federal support, and FEMA notified the state last night that this assistance was approved for Chelan and Okanogan counties, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
Federal assistance already provided in response to these fires has included six Fire Management Assistance Grants provided by FEMA, as well as support from the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other federal partners.
The Emergency Declaration provides direct assistance for fire suppression and response efforts, but does not provide any financial assistance to the state, county or disaster survivors. Damage assessments are underway to determine whether the state can obtain such financial assistance from the federal government, which would be made available to help home and business owners affected by the disaster, as well as for repairs to public infrastructure.
Inslee also thanked members of the state congressional delegation for their help in ensuring swift approval of the emergency declaration request.
“Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representatives Hastings and Reichert have been right at the front of these efforts to make sure every available resource is brought to bear on these fires,” Inslee said. “Their help has been instrumental.”
The governor declared a state of emergency on July 15 in the 20 counties of Eastern Washington as a result of rapidly growing wildfires. The governor amended the proclamation on July 21 to include a temporary outdoor burn ban in Eastern Washington, effective through July 25. This proclamation makes the services of the Washington National Guard available to assist with firefighting efforts, and directs state agencies to do everything possible to assist in the response and recovery efforts.
The State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is continuing to coordinate state assistance to affected communities in response to the wildfires. The State EOC activated at Phase III level at 7 a.m. on July 18. Chelan County declared a state of emergency on July 17.