Congressional delegation urges disaster declaration for Black Forest, Royal Gorge fires

By Ryan Handy Published: July 11, 2013 | 10:20 am 0

Gov. John Hickenlooper's office requested Tuesday that two major Colorado wildfire zones be declared disaster areas - the Black Forest and the Royal Gorge burn zones.

The request now awaits President Barack Obama's approval, and was followed Wednesday by a plea from Colorado's Congressional delegation, asking the president to make millions of recovery funds available to the fire-plagued state. Declaring the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires disasters would make affected counties and residents eligible for several kinds of financial aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

FEMA has allegedly pledged $1 million to help Colorado cover the cost of its $22 million firefighting season thus far, but FEMA officials have also assessed Colorado for other types of aid. The agency spent the past two weeks in El Paso County calculating the number of homes lost - 498 according to FEMA, or 486 according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office - as well as the number of people whose uninsured homes were lost to the Black Forest fire. There are between 25 and 78 people who were uninsured in the Black Forest area, according to El Paso County officials.

The county commissioners have not discussed what kinds of disaster aid they might seek.

Last year's Waldo Canyon and High Park fires were given disaster declarations, although Waldo Canyon was only granted public assistance, primarily to help cover the costs of fighting the fire.

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