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 Home > News & Policies > October 2003

For Immediate Release
Federal Emergency Management Agency
October 29, 2003

FEMA Engaged in Significant Response and Recovery Activity for California Wildfires

Following President Bush's disaster declaration for the wildfires burning in California, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun significant federal response and recovery activity to assist the state, impacted local communities and individual Californians. FEMA also continues to help California with costs associated with fighting both recent and new wildfires.

Last night after returning from a trip to California to view fire damage, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Michael D. Brown, approved a Fire Management Assistance Grant for the Whitmore fire in Shasta County - the ninth such grant for the state just in the last week. This grant allows the federal government to reimburse California for up to 75 percent of the cost of fighting this fire. Eligible costs can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; tools, materials and supplies; and mobilization and demobilization activities.

Today, the following federal response and recovery activities will be coordinated by FEMA:

  • The primary Disaster Field Office (DFO), the command center for the federal and state response, is operational in Pasadena, CA. Today, federal and state officials will work to determine locations for satellite DFOs in San Diego and in the San Bernardino/Riverside area.

  • FEMA employees will help staff a disaster assistance center organized by the city of San Diego. FEMA will organize additional Disaster Recovery Centers this week to provide one-on-one contact with disaster victims.
  • Teams of Community Relations specialists will begin to deploy into the affected disaster areas to provide face-to-face information, advice, and assistance to disaster victims.
  • Housing inspectors are being pre-positioned near impacted areas to immediately move in once it is safe to do so. Inspection of damaged homes is an important continuation of the victim assistance process.
  • The FEMA teleregistration number (1-800-621-FEMA [3362] or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired) continues to accept telephonic registrations from disaster victims in several languages.
  • Work by the following federal agencies is now being coordinated by FEMA as part of the federal response to the fires: the U.S. Corps of Engineers is providing debris technicians and Geospatial Information System support; the Department of Transportation is providing transportation support as needed; the Department of Energy is coordinating with local power utility districts and assessing power needs; the General Services Administration is providing contract and leasing support; and the Public Health Service is providing public health liaisons to monitor air quality and assess health systems needs (hospitals, etc.). The U.S. Forest Service continues to provide direct fire-ground support.
  • FEMA's Regional Operations Center in Oakland, CA, is maintaining a 24-hour activation to support the state and local response to the fires.

On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.