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Obama signs Emergency Declaration for Washington

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 21, 2015, 12:34 p.m.

President Barack Obama ordered federal aid to state and local agencies fighting wildfires in Washington that began Aug. 13.

In signing an emergency declaration requested Wednesday evening by Gov. Jay Inslee, Obama authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief “to save lives and protect property and public health and safety and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe.”

The order covers much of Central and Eastern Washington: Asotin, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Klikcitat, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens and Yakima counties; plus the Colville Confederated, Kalispel, Spokane and Yakama reservations.

The federal government will provide 75 percent of the cost of emergency measures, a statement from the White House said.

Inslee and members of the state congressional delegation said Thursday in Chelan they would press Obama to make a speedy decision on the emergency declaration.

Friday Inslee said Obama’s order will provide assistance in four areas:

— Transmitters and other emergency communications equipment;

— Emergency power generate resources for local governments;

— Crisis counseling;

— A team to assess burned areas on the possible threats to public health and safety, as well as information on preventing further damage.

The state also expects to file a request for a federal disaster declaration later, which would provide federal aid for some property lost in the wildfires. But that process takes longer, and requires extensive data on losses and the amount of insurance coverage in affected areas.

Last year the federal government rejected the state’s request for a disaster declaration for the Carlton Complex fire in Central Washington, although the Small Business Administration later approved low-interest loans for some businesses damaged by the wildfires.


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