North Carolina Gov.’s 2nd Request for Federal Aid Hits Home

June 17, 2008

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for a second time, to help pay the escalating costs of fighting the Evans Road Fire in three eastern North Carolina counties.

The fire started June 1 and has burned more than 40,000 acres in Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties, spreading smoke from the Outer Banks to the Triangle and beyond.

“When FEMA denied our request for help last week, they said there was not enough damage to structures to qualify for aid. But the fact that our firefighters have been able to protect homes and businesses should not disqualify our state and local agencies from getting federal help to recover costs,” Easley said. “We have been working these fires for two weeks and the cost is well in excess of the criteria in our agreement with FEMA. The fire and smoke is also keeping tourists away from the Outer Banks and coastal areas, and as a result these communities are suffering economic losses during the busiest part of their year,” the governor said on June 13.

In response to Easley’s second request, FEMA approved the grant.

“I appreciate FEMA’s quick response to this request and their recognition of the economic impact of the fire,” Easley said. “Our fire fighting teams have done a good job preventing the fire from spreading into populated areas, but after two hard weeks, they need additional resources to help them put this fire out.”

In February the state had signed an agreement with FEMA that enables North Carolina to more quickly seek federal assistance to help pay costs while fighting major fires. FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Grant Program provides federal money to cover 75 percent of the eligible costs while fighting fires after spending surpasses $491,000 for individual fires and $1.47 million for multiple fires. The grant can be used for fire equipment and supplies; pre-positioning out-of-state, federal or international resources to help fight fires; and emergency operations such as evacuation and sheltering, police barricading and traffic control.

The N.C. Division of Forest Resources estimates their cost of fighting the fire to be more than $2 million as of June 12. That does not include the costs incurred by Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington Counties’ emergency response agencies or by the N.C. Division of Emergency Management’s support resources such as base camp operations for the firefighting crews. The current estimate on those additional expenses is nearly $300,000.

In addition to the expenses, approval of the FEMA grant is based on the threat to lives and property, the availability of state and local fire fighters, the ongoing high fire danger, and the potential for major economic impact. The grant application notes at least 120 homes that could be threatened by the fire as well as various businesses and other structures in the three involved counties that may be at risk. The fire is also impacting travel on U.S. Highway 64, which is the primary access to the Outer Banks. Closure of that highway has the potential to cause $2 million in lost revenue per day.

The Division of Forest Resources is already using additional fire fighters through various mutual aid agreements. There are currently 473 personnel fighting the fire or supporting the operation from North Carolina and 13 other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Source: Office of the Governor of North Carolina

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