State’s Emergency Services Director Requests Federal Public Assistance Funds for Valley and Butte Fire Recovery

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SACRAMENTO – In an effort to expedite the economic recovery of Lake and Calaveras Counties after the devastating impacts of the Valley and Butte fires, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci has made a request for Federal Public Assistance funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The request of Public Assistance funding is designed to support the recovery of public infrastructure and clearance of fire debris that poses a threat to public health and safety and to the environment. These funds build on other federal assistance already provided to assist individuals and families who have suffered losses.

On Sept. 11 and Sept. 13, 2015, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. proclaimed States of Emergency in Calaveras and Lake Counties, due to impacts from the Butte and Valley fires, respectively. On Sept. 22, 2015, President Barack Obama declared a major disaster making federal disaster aid available for both fires. On Oct. 2, 2015, Gov. Brown also issued an Executive Order to accelerate the process of installing emergency housing in Lake and Calaveras Counties for fire victims.

The text of the full letter is below (pdf link):

Elizabeth Zimmerman

Associate Administrator Office of Response and Recovery (ORR)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security 500 C Street SW Washington, D.C. 20472

Through:Regional Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr. FEMA Region IX Oakland, California 94607-4052

Dear Ms. Zimmerman:

On September 22, 2015, as a result of the Valley Fire, President Obama granted Lake County a major disaster declaration (FEMA-4240-DR-CA), which was amended on September 23 to include the Butte Fire in Calaveras County. To date, the President’s major disaster declaration provided Individual Assistance for Lake and Calaveras Counties, Hazard Mitigation statewide, and subsequently Category B, Direct Federal Assistance was included. Pursuant to Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 206.40, I am requesting the Public Assistance Program (Categories A – G) for Lake and Calaveras Counties.

On September 20, 2015, I requested joint federal, state, and local preliminary damage assessments in both counties. The assessments were conducted on September 22 through September 24, 2015. The preliminary damage assessment for Public Assistance totaled $ 97,913,559 in estimated impact to the State. The majority of these costs are associated with debris removal, including debris on private property.

Although the total impacts to the State are $97,913,559, in collaboration with FEMA we have deducted the debris removal costs that are not eligible for federal consideration. As such, the assessed eligible costs for Public Assistance are $66,670,344, which amounts to a $657.96 per capita impact in Lake County and a $164.72 per capita impact in Calaveras County.

The State of California understands that typically private property owners are responsible for removal of debris after a disaster. However, where the magnitude of the disaster creates an enormous amount of debris, it is in the public’s interest to remove this debris expeditiously in order to eliminate threats to life, public health, and safety and to ensure economic recovery of the affected community.

On September 15, 2015, Lake County’s Health Officer proclaimed a public health emergency exists in Lake County. That proclamation was amended on September 22, 2015, to reiterate the urgent nature of the hazardous debris. On September 22, 2015, Calaveras County also proclaimed a public health emergency due to hazardous debris.

Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) have determined the ash and debris from burned residential structures contain concentrated amounts of heavy metals, such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc that pose a health risk to the public and environment. As such, the CalEPA is currently conducting random testing to determine the specific level of contamination in the debris. Many of the homes in the affected communities were constructed prior to 1980 and contain toxins, such as asbestos, a binding agent found in many materials formerly used for construction.

Both Calaveras and Lake Counties have determined the volume of debris is beyond their capabilities to manage and remove. In response, the State’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is managing the overall debris removal operations to effectively and expeditiously eliminate the public health and safety threat that exists in these communities. However, the Valley Fire and Butte Fire represent the fifth and sixth debris operations for CalRecycle in California within the last twelve months, beginning with the Boles Fire in Siskiyou County, the Round Fire in Mono County, the Rocky Fire in Lake County, and five fires in Trinity County (Fork, Route, Mad River, South, and River Complexes). The cumulative impact of all the wildfires have depleted California’s resources and are hindering its ability to effectively respond and recover.

To ensure the economic recovery of both Calaveras and Lake Counties, removal of this debris is necessary. Until this debris is properly removed homeowners will not be able to return to their properties safely to begin the rebuilding process. Additionally, based on historical weather seasons and the National Weather Service’s projections, inclement weather could start as early as mid-October for Northern California, including Calaveras and Lake Counties. Therefore, time is of the essence.

Therefore, I am specifically requesting Public Assistance (Categories A – G) for Lake and Calaveras Counties. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any additional information.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

MARK S. GHILARDUCCI

Governor’s Authorized Representative

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