Erskine Fire denied supplemental federal relief from FEMA, has 30 days to appeal

Posted at 4:57 PM, Jul 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 20:00:02-04

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security informed Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom that FEMA would not be providing supplemental federal assistance.

The letter stated that "the event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies".

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy released the following statement:

“Weeks ago, our community was ravaged by the worst fire in Kern County history. As the flames swept across the Kern River Valley, thousands fled their homes to safety. And at that same time, as the Erskine Fire was destroying everything in its path, our first responders, firefighters, and police officers faced danger to ensure the safety of our neighbors. At one of our community’s worst moments, we witnessed the best from our fellow citizens. But as the dust settled, it became abundantly clear that we would need help rebuilding.
“I want to thank the State of California and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom  for recognizing our community’s hardship and stepping up to request that the Obama Administration declare the Erskine Fire a major disaster to make our community eligible for additional Federal relief. This designation is something I strongly support given our region’s unique challenges, which I outlined to the President and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Unfortunately, I was notified today by FEMA that the Obama Administration rejected California’s request for help.   
“Disappointment and outrage fail to fully describe this decision. Instead of considering different indicators of the severity of damage and the real limits on existing state and local resources to help our communities recover, the Administration’s decision reeks of bureaucratic and arbitrary formulas which are predisposed to address urban disaster, while not fully comprehending the scope of damage and destruction in non-urban regions. I will continue to work with all levels of government to help streamline all resources available to helping our communities. In addition, this decision more broadly begs for a reassessment of the 28-year-old Stafford Act itself - which outlines Federal disaster and emergency assistance, especially how non-urban communities are treated after tragic devastation occurs.”

The state of California has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Erskine Fire destroyed 309 structures, burned 48,019 acres and killed two people.