FEMA Denies Inclusion of California Wind Damage in Disaster Relief

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Statement by OES Director Henry Renteria on FEMA’s Denial of California’s Appeal Seeking Inclusion of Wind Damages in Major Disaster Declaration for Southern California Wildfires

Earlier today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advised the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) that it has denied the state’s appeal of the federal disaster agency’s decision in November denying California’s request that damages from the Santa Ana winds in late October and early November be included in the President’s October 24 major disaster declaration.

“We are deeply disappointed with today’s decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny our appeal of its earlier decision not to include damage from the Santa Ana winds in the President’s October 24 major disaster declaration,” said OES Director Henry Renteria.

Unfortunately, this means that homes and businesses that suffered only wind damage are ineligible for federal disaster assistance,” said Renteria.

Based on preliminary estimates provided by local authorities, the winds alone were responsible for damaging over 2,700 homes and burdening local and state agencies with more than $3.5 million in costs for response, debris removal and the repair of damaged infrastructure in Riverside, Orange and Ventura counties.

At the request of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Bush on October 24, 2007, declared a major disaster for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties as a result of devastating wildfires that struck those counties. The presidential declaration allowed homeowners, renters, business owners and government entities in those areas to become eligible for federal disaster assistance to cover fire-related losses and costs.

In early November, the State of California asked FEMA for clarification regarding the eligibility of wind-related losses and costs. On November 29, 2007, FEMA advised the State that it considered the damaging Santa Ana winds and wildfires two separate events. On December 6, 2007, the State filed an appeal which was denied.

At the Governor’s direction, the Office of Emergency Services will be working with local agencies to determine wind-related costs that may be eligible for state reimbursement under the California Disaster Assistance Act, which includes public facilities and infrastructure.

Unfortunately, California has no program available under current law to provide grants or loans to individuals and business owners affected by the winds. Additional information about the California Disaster Assistance Act can be obtained by linking to the California Emergency Services Act in the Plans and Publications section of the OES web site at www.oes.ca.gov.

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.