FEMA expected to address Sand Fire costs

Members of a hand crew from Chula Vista put water on a Sand fire flare-up along Placerita Canyon road on July 26. Signal photo by Dan Watson

Reimbursement for the multi-million cost of this summer’s Sand Fire by FEMA – Federal Emergency Management Agency – is expected to be a topic of much discussion over the next few months, according to lobbyists reporting to local water officials about funding updates from Washington.

Castaic Lake Water Agency board members were updated Monday on the progress of a number of bills before Congress and about the status of funding applications submitted to the federal government by the agency by lobbyists from Anchor Consulting LLC, a consulting firm hired by CLWA.

One of those funding applications filed by the CLWA was a request of FEMA to be reimbursed for costs incurred by the Sand Fire.

“As is often the case following an emergency like the Sand Fire, Congress will need to look to assist FEMA in both its response for future disasters, but also to reimburse fire departments for their response to this emergency,” Harry Henderson of Anchor Consulting said in his report prepared for the CLWA board.

“We expect more to come on this topic in the next few months,” he said in closing is report.

Although cost of the Sand Fire is still being tabulated, officials with the Los Angeles County Fire Department told The Signal late July that the overall projected cost of the firefight to extinguish it was estimated at $35 million.

As for the Sand Fire’s impact on the CLWA’s pocketbook, it was described by Henderson as “modest.”

“The main impacts from the fire were damages to some facilities – tank sites with coating damages, roadway damages and fencing damages,”  Keith Abercrombie, retail manager of the Santa Clarita Water Division, told The Signal Monday.

SCWD is owned by the CLWA and is one of SCV’s three main water retailers.

“I believe there was also some damage to some of our communications antennae that we use for our system controls,” Abercrombie said. “In any event, total estimated damages were in the neighborhood of $50,000, I believe.”

The Sand Fire that began on July 22, caused the death of one man, destroyed 19 homes, burned at least 41,432 acres from Sand Canyon to Acton.

It took firefighters 24 days to have it fully contained, according the US Forest Service.

“We requested funding for reimbursement of costs,” Fire Department Keith Mora told The Signal Monday.

FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security which serves to coordinate responses to US disasters that overwhelm the resources of local and state authorities.

Although preliminary, FEMA has a file opened on the Sand Fire – given the file number, FM-5135.

The file lists the Sand Fire as having occurred from July 22 to Aug. 1, when fire officials listed it as 98 percent contained.

It also shows that “Fire management assistance” was declared by fire officials on the second day into the fire.


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