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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news May 2, 2016

8/13/2013 1:42:00 PM
After FEMA denial, state, county left to help fire victims
By Tamara Stone
Contributing Reporter

YARNELL - Victims of the Yarnell Hill Fire will have to look for alternative sources of aid as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied the state's request for help.

On Aug. 9, Gov. Jan Brewer's office received a letter from the agency, informing her of the denial.

" has been determined that the damage to uninsured private residences from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies. Therefore, I must inform you that your request for a major disaster declaration is denied," the letter read.

Brewer has 30 days to appeal the decision.

"I was hopeful the federal government would recognize the exceptionally devastating circumstances surrounding this tragedy, and support Arizona's request," Brewer said in a statement released Friday. "The State will review its options regarding an appeal of this misguided decision. We will continue to do everything in our power to assist in that effort."

What is FEMA?

FEMA is a taxpayer-funded organization that offers assistance to individuals, families and businesses, according to the organization's website, The organization pays for losses that may not be covered by insurance such as foundations, well systems and privately owned access roads. The aid is not intended to restore damaged property back to its original condition.

The organization looks at a number of factors in assessing a request for a major disaster declaration, including insurance coverage, FEMA Press Secretary Dan Watson wrote in an email to the Daily Courier on Monday. The organization cannot duplicate benefits provided by insurance or other federal assistance programs.

However, assistance is only available to counties that have been federally declared a disaster area.

"Additional federal resources are available," Watson wrote. "The state can work directly with federal agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Agriculture through their own authorities."

On June 30, FEMA issued the state a Fire Management Assistance Grant to help fight the blaze, Watson wrote.

Estimated costs in the millions

The fire, which began on June 28, burned more than 100 homes across 8,000 acres and killed a crew of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters.

The cost of the damage to homes in the area is estimated at more than $2.2 million, according to documents obtained from the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM).

ADEM based the estimates on county tax assessor home values to determine the replacement costs for the homes, ADEM spokeswoman Judy Kioski said.

County helping in recovery efforts

According to Yavapai County Emergency Management Coordinator Denny Faulk, the county created an 86-page recovery plan to help restore the community back to where it was before the fire ravaged the area.

The first step the county had to take was to determine which homes were insured, underinsured and uninsured. Then the county had to determine if the homes were primary or secondary residences.

"The most vulnerable people rose to the top as the priority for our rebuilding efforts," Faulk said. "Priority number one is uninsured primary residents and priority two would be underinsured primary residents."

The Yarnell Hill Recovery Group and the United Way have funds readily available to begin reconstruction on homes that were not insured or were underinsured, Faulk said.

The county has provided a variety of assistance to residents over the past few weeks. such as dumpsters for clean-up efforts, road crews and flood control, Faulk said.

Even if FEMA decided to help residents with monetary assistance, the maximum amount distributed for individual assistance is $31,000, Faulk said. Much of the damage caused by the fire is in excess of that amount.

"One of the misnomers is that FEMA is all that," Faulk said. "One of the most important things people need to remember is that they need to take responsibility for their own recovery."

"These people have taken this on their own shoulders and taken responsibility for their own recovery," he added.

People looking to donate to victims of the fire can visit the Yarnell Recovery Group at or The United Way of Yavapai County as

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: @ Slater

Last report I heard said the City of Prescott denied benefits to all of the 19.

Eighteen were part timers. One worked 40
hours /week.

The City stated they were on firm legal ground with their decision.

Firefighters do have an obvious option regarding their service.

For Prescott, nothing is free except the lives of the 19.


Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: Come on, Guys and Gals.

Let's not turn this tragedy into a political hate-fest.

As the VI editorialized, FEMA is a mixed blessing at best, no matter which party controls the White House. Arizona can aid the victims of the Yarnell fire without its help, and will do so faster without an excuse to wait for federal assistance.

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater

I remember very clearly the Mayor of Prescott
stating on national TV that they would not abandon the 19.
I'm wondering if that was politics or has Prescott helped the families in any way financially.
I know the families received money from donations but that is the communities across
this nation that ponied up.
I understand the labor laws don't provide for part timers but it's a sad day for those families
as the benefits(not money) is what the children need.

Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Article comment by: verde voter

Indeed. Here is the example, Did they say CUT FUNDING, IS THAT THE TEA PARTY we hear? but but but but not when?

Posted: Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Article comment by: Indeed... the anti-anything federal state of AZ- -

Now bristles at the idea that the feds are not moving heaven and earth for the state that has been shoving a sharp stick into it's eye for a few years now.

Folks best not forget that our states own elected rep's voted against providing fed funds after a hurricane wiped out a bunch of the north east.

Sack it up AZ... if you are going to talk the talk and wag that boney finger...
you best get busy helping your selves
and don't linger.

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