Opinion Columns & Blogs

Sorry, FEMA says, fires not disastrous enough

As they sift through the smoldering remains of their homes, there are hundreds of people in Okanogan and Chelan counties who wonder, what horrors qualify as disaster in the federal government’s narrow eyes?

Apparently 146 homes destroyed and 476 damaged in a few flaming days of hell does not meet the standards of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Sorry, not disastrous enough.

For the second year in a row FEMA has denied Washington’s request for individual assistance to fire victims. This time, FEMA explained, the damage lacked sufficient concentration and the owners of carbonized homes had too much insurance, even if Gov. Jay Inslee’s office reported two-thirds were uninsured or underinsured.

“Not of the severity and magnitude” to qualify, said FEMA.

Last year, more than 300 homes were destroyed in the Carlton Complex, and same explanation.

No federal assistance for individuals, some of whom lost everything. Not severe enough.

So in the rural West, where we naturally lack “concentration,” we would virtually have to be wiped off the face of the earth to reach the magnitude and severity FEMA requires?

As our governor and representatives in Congress have noted, some reasonable effort should be made to tune up FEMA’s disaster assistance criteria so that true disasters are treated as the disasters they are, and burned out rural residents can get the help they need and deserve.

Nobody here is jumping up and down at the prospect of getting federal disaster aid, but when you lose your home and FEMA says it’s not severe, it’s bound to make you feel small. That should not be.