WASHINGTON – Four members of Congress from Washington state are urging the federal government to reverse last week’s decision to deny direct assistance to families affected by wildfires that scorched the state for nearly a month beginning July 14.
In a letter to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Republican Reps. Dave Reichert of Auburn and Doc Hastings of Pasco ask the agency for help with any appeal filed by Gov. Jay Inslee to challenge FEMA’s decision not to grant individual aid for people whose homes burned in Okanogan County as well as public assistance for Chelan County.
FEMA has approved federal assistance to pay for most of the damage to public property in Okanogan County and the Colville Indian Reservation. That money would be used to rebuild roads, utilities and other public infrastructure.
The Carlton complex wildfire that burned through Okanogan and Chelan counties is the largest in recorded state history. It destroyed more than 300 homes and burned more than 400 square miles. FEMA declared it a major disaster on Aug. 11, paving the way for possible federal assistance.
The lawmakers noted the fires burned through a rural agricultural region with few unoccupied homes and with tourism and harvest seasons in full swing. They said nearly half of the burned homes were uninsured or underinsured.
“Without assistance, these losses will financially devastate hundreds of families,” they wrote. “Federal assistance is needed immediately to stem this housing shortage and protect the region’s future economic health.”