Federal Assistance Denied for Yarnell Fire

August 12, 2013

The federal government has denied Arizona’s request for a major disaster declaration for the wildfire in Yarnell, Gov. Jan Brewer said Friday.

Brewer called it a “misguided decision” and said the state “will review its options regarding an appeal.”

Nineteen firefighters died battling the blaze near Prescott on June 30 and Brewer had been waiting for a response from President Barack Obama to her request since mid-July.

Approval would have brought long-term federal recovery programs to Yavapai County to help survivors and businesses that didn’t have adequate insurance. It also would allow a federal team to do flood prevention work.

Brewer pressed the president on her request Tuesday when he was in Phoenix to give a speech on housing and the economy and Obama reportedly assured the governor that he would look into it.

In the days after the fire, Brewer said Obama called her and “pledged to support our state during its time of great need” and Vice President Joe Biden “reiterated that commitment at the memorial service for the Granite Mountain Hotshots.”

“With today’s denial of the state’s request, Arizonans are left questioning what help they were willing to give,” Brewer added. “I was hopeful the federal government would recognize the exceptionally devastating circumstances surrounding this tragedy and support Arizona’s request.”

U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans like Brewer, issued a joint statement to express their disappointment with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The people of Yarnell waited a full month to receive word that federal assistance is not coming. It is a shame that FEMA couldn’t find it within their mission to help rebuild their homes and lives,” McCain and Flake said. “We will discuss this matter with the governor and begin exploring with her options for appealing this decision.”

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