Feds nix county fire aid

Could cost county millions—appeal is planned

Butte County won’t be getting money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay firefighting costs—at least not for now. The county learned last week that FEMA had decided the fires that burned thousands of acres in Butte County during June and July and destroyed more than 200 dwellings didn’t qualify it as a major disaster.

As of July 17, the fires had cost $53.3 million, with Butte County obliged to pay $6.1 million of that. Deputy Administrative Officer Andy Pickett said without federal aid the county will have to dip into its contingency fund, which means next year’s budget will be a lot smaller.

The county is going to appeal FEMA’s decision, said John Gulserian, the county’s director of emergency services. It originally applied for disaster assistance along with 10 other counties, some of which weren’t hit as hard as Butte. Butte will repackage its request, including only those counties—including Monterey and Santa Barbara—with the worst fire damage.

Because so much is happening on the disaster front nationally, Gulserian said, FEMA probably won’t come up with an answer for another month.