Arizona’s top elected officials decried the federal government’s decision Friday not to declare the Yarnell Hill Fire a major disaster, saying it broke a promise and was a slap to a grieving community.
Organizers of recovery efforts in the isolated community said they will cope.
Gov. Jan Brewer requested the disaster designation July 9 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide money for residents displaced by the deadly blaze and bring a team of experts to mitigate postfire flooding.
Federal officials said in their denial of Brewer’s request that the blaze was “not of such severity and magnitude” to warrant additional federal aid.
In a letter to Brewer, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the state, local communities and volunteer agencies are capable of helping uninsured homeowners replace and rebuild their homes.
FEMA spokesman Dan Watson said the disaster agency considers a number of factors, including insurance coverage, in assessing requests for aid.
“FEMA, by law, cannot duplicate benefits provided by insurance companies or other federal agencies,” Watson said. “In this case ... it was determined that the damage to uninsured private residences from this event was not beyond the response and recovery capabilities of the state/local governments and voluntary agencies.”
Brewer said Friday that she was “deeply troubled” by the denial of her request. She questioned the sincerity of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, “who pledged to support our state during its time of great need.”