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Inslee files request for federal fire disaster aid

OLYMPIA – Central Washington families, businesses and governments need federal aid to help cover losses from this summer’s wildfires, Gov. Jay Inslee said in a request to the federal government.

Inslee filed a formal request this week with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a Major Disaster declaration to cover Chelan and Okanogan counties and the Colville Indian Reservation. Those areas have been hit by wildfires that include the Carlton Complex, which has burned the most acreage of any wildfire in state history.

The disaster declaration, if approved by President Barack Obama, would provide financial aid for as long as 18 months for individuals displaced by fires. It also would help with expenses to replace some personal property and with travel, medical and dental costs not covered by individual insurance. Additionally, it would offer unemployment payments to those left jobless by the fires and make low-interest loans available through the Small Business Administration.

Before submitting the request, the state had to provide estimates of some of the damages. It estimated at least 323 homes in Okanogan County have been destroyed and fires had caused some $35 million in damages.

During a recent trip to the Methow Valley to survey fire damage, Inslee told local officials that having the emergency designation was not a guarantee. But an earlier request for federal aid to help fight the fires was approved last month when Obama issued an initial Emergency Declaration after receiving a briefing on the fires from Inslee during a trip to Seattle.