Rapidly spreading fire prompts disaster declaration,
opens path to federal funds

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter issued a state disaster declaration this week in support of the firefighting efforts in Elmore County and other areas impacted by significant fire activity.

Idaho’s Emergency Operations Center, located at the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security (BHS), Gowen Field, has been activated to coordinate state of Idaho support to the affected fire areas.

The declaration provides authority to the Idaho Emergency Operations Center to assign missions to state agencies and to process requests for financial assistance to the impacted jurisdictions. 

Elmore County has ordered and deployed a task force of structural fire engines to assist in protecting residences in the Pine and Prairie areas. Those areas have no formal fire protection districts, and the disaster declaration will assist in funding those resources. 

Structure protection assets have been mobilized from the Boise, Meridian, Eagle and Donnelly fire departments through the Idaho Fire Chiefs Resource Response Plan.

The Elk and Pony Complex fires have seen explosive growth, leading to large area closures and evacuations. The Elmore County Sheriff’s Office encourages people to leave the area for their safety and to ensure the firefighters can concentrate on suppression activities. 

“This declarations means we can tap into the collective strength of the state of Idaho, “said BHS director Col. Brad Richy.  “We thank Governor Otter for his support and we will stand side-by-side with the impacted county to make sure they have the resources they need.”

FEMA funds authorized to help fight Elk Fire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Elk Complex Fire burning in Elmore County. 

Elmore County and the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security requested the assistance because of the rapidly moving fire and the potential for its impact to residences and public safety resources. 
The Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) authorization makes FEMA funds available to pay 75 percent of eligible fire suppression and evacuation costs. FMAG declarations are only provided when fires have a high likelihood of damaging residences or infrastructures. Without the FEMA funds, those extraordinary costs would have created a significant financial burden for Elmore County. 
The fire is threatening Pine, Featherville and Prairie as well as other residences in the area. Because of extreme fire behavior, area closures and evacuations have been issued by the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office and the Boise National Forest. 
The Elmore County commissioners enacted a local disaster declaration and Gov. Otter issued a state disaster declaration as well (see announcement above).  The FMAG enacted in rare instances. This week’s declaration is the first issued in Idaho this year.  
“With the extreme fire conditions and continued red flag conditions, there is the potential for impacts to residences and businesses,” said BHS Director Col. Brad Richy. “The Bureau of Homeland Security stands ready to assist and we are appreciative of FEMA’s support as we work together to protect Idaho’s people, property and resources.” 

Published 8-16-13