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Is the Federal government denying disaster relief for Yarnell because it’s Arizona?

Posted: August 16, 2013 at 6:40 am   /   by

House Leaders Call For President Obama and FEMA to Reconsider Emergency Funding for Yarnell

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX (August 14, 2013) – Yesterday, Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R-Dist. 1) and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D-Dist. 24) sent a letter to President Obama citing the reasons why it was necessary and important to grant Arizona’s request for Federal Disaster Relief for the recently devastated community of Yarnell.

After having sent the letter, Speaker Tobin stated, “I cannot understand how the people of Yarnell are any less deserving of Federal Emergency Assistance than the good people affected by hurricane Sandy or any other previously qualified American municipality. To deny or further delay relief to this economically vulnerable community sends a clear message to the people ofArizona that their suffering, although great, does not matter as much as that of other more populous states. Such a response should send a chill down the spines of every rural community in America as they will now face the prospect of paying taxes to maintain a system that may not be there after disaster strikes them.”

In the attached letter to the President, both legislative leaders reiterated the level of devastation that the rural community sustained and the economic fragility of the vast majority of the people of Yarnell. They asked the President to “honor your [President Obama’s] commitments and help the most deserving and distressed residents of Yarnell.”

Citing the need to move on the request, Minority Leader Campbell stated, “We have an obligation to help the rebuilding efforts of those who lost so much in the Yarnell Hill fire. In Arizona, we are setting aside political divisions to ensure that those affected by this disaster get what they need. That work will happen at the state level regardless of FEMA’s decision to deny federal aid to Yavapai County.  Both the president and vice president said they would do all they can to help, and I hope they will honor that commitment. Clearly, there are rules and regulations that are meant to guide FEMA in making decisions about disaster relief. I am encouraging President Obama and Vice President Biden to look at the situation more closely because I strongly believe that, after further consideration, FEMA will overturn its decision.”



The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20500


Through:      Regional Administrator Nancy Ward

FEMA Region IX

1111 Broadway

Oakland, CA 94607-4052


Subject: Reconsideration for Major Disaster Declaration for Yarnell Hill Fire


Dear Mr. President:

We send this letter as a formal request for you to reconsider Arizona’s bid for a Major Disaster Declaration due to the deadly blaze near Yarnell. The original request was made on July 9th, 2013 with additional materials provided on July 12th, 2013. It is our belief that the State of Arizona has provided sufficient qualifying information to demonstrate the significant magnitude of damages and trauma the people of Yarnell, Yavapai County and the State of Arizona have and will experience for years to come due to the Yarnell Hill Fire.

According to the joint State-Federal preliminary damage assessment, more than 8,000 acres were consumed by fire, 109 homes were destroyed, 2 homes sustained major damage and 21 homes experienced minor damage. This equates to a loss of 20% of the homes in Yarnell and an estimated $6,800,000 in damage to the small rural community. Yarnell has unique considerations to take into account including the fact that 35% of the population is above the age of 65 and an estimated 28% of the population is at or below the Federal poverty level. Because of those factors, it will be extremely difficult for these populations to recover and rebuild without federal assistance.

In addition to the devastating impacts on the residents and businesses of the town of Yarnell, the State of Arizona suffered it’s most tragic loss in wildfire history – the deaths of 19 wild land firefighters. This tragedy is extremely distressing to the residents of Yarnell, Yavapai County and the entire state.  These 19 men bravely served their communities and will never be forgotten.

In the days after the fire, Mr. President, you offered and pledged to support our state during its time of great need. In addition, Vice President Joe Biden reiterated your commitment at the memorial service for the Granite Mountain Hotshots. We fully expect that you will honor your commitments and help the most deserving and distressed residents of Yarnell.

We encourage you, Mr. President, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reconsider Arizona’s requests for a Major Disaster Declaration. Please act quickly to provide supplementary federal assistance from the Individuals Assistance Program and Disaster Case Management Services for Yavapai County in response to the significant loss of residential structures in Yarnell and the Burned Area Emergency Response program for the Yarnell Hill Fire burn area.



Speaker Andy Tobin

Minority Leader Chad Campbell

Arizona House of Representatives


Cc:      The Honorable John McCain, Senator

The Honorable Jeff Flake, Senator

The Honorable Ann Kirkpatrick, Representative

The Honorable Ron Barber, Representative

The Honorable Raul Grijalva, Representative

The Honorable Paul Gosar, Representative

The Honorable Matt Salmon, Representative

The Honorable David Schweikert, Representative

The Honorable Ed Pastor, Representative

The Honorable Trent Franks, Representative

The Honorable Kyrsten Sinema, Representative

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Is the Federal government denying disaster relief for Yarnell because it's Arizona?