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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eight counties, Colville Tribe getting disaster aid for wildfires

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 20, 2015

OLYMPIA – The federal government will reimburse some, but maybe not all, local governments and tribes for a portion of their costs fighting this summer’s record wildfires.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced late Tuesday the Obama administration has approved part of the state’s request for a major disaster declaration for the wildfires in Central and Eastern Washington.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it will cover 75 percent of the cost of fighting the fires and repairing damaged infrastructure in eight counties and for the Colville Confederated Tribes.

It has not yet agreed to cover those public assistance costs for four other counties and the Kalispel, Yakama and Spokane tribes.

It still is considering whether to provide individual assistance to families and businesses that sustained losses. The fires destroyed 146 homes and damaged another 476, with nearly two-thirds uninsured or underinsured, state officials said.

Karina Shagren of the state Military Department, which handles emergency management, said there’s no estimate yet on the amount of federal reimbursement. But with firefighting costs alone at more than $100 million, the eventual reimbursement will be in the tens of millions of dollars, she said.

“A dollar figure is going to be tough,” Shagren said. “Sometimes it takes years, even decades, to close out a disaster account.”

Approved for public assistance were Chelan, Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Whatcom and Yakima counties.

Not approved were Asotin, Columbia, Douglas and Garfield counties, although some of those counties and tribes previously may have received federal grants to cover 75 percent of fire costs, Shagren said.

The state could also submit more information on losses for those counties and tribes, which could lead to approval of public assistance aid for them. “Nothing has been denied yet,” she said.

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