SCHUMER URGES FEMA TO BE READY TO EXPEDITE APPROVAL FOR FIRE-RELATED DISASTER DECLARATION FOR HUDSON VALLEY AREAS IMPACTED BY THE CURRENTLY RAGING & FAST-MOVING FOREST FIRE IN SHAWANGUNK RIDGE STATE FOREST – FIGHTING FLAMES ARE CURRENTLY EXHAUSTING ALL RESOURCES & OVER 25 FIRE DEPARTMENTS ARE BATTLING TO PUT OUT FIRES & HELP EVACUATE RESIDENTS FROM HOMES
Schumer Writes to FEMA Urging Fed Agency To Be Ready To Approve Fire Management Assistance Grant To Help Reimburse Hudson Valley Communities As They Fight Back 1,700-Acre Forest Fire
Approval Would Make Available FEMA Fire Management Assistance Funds for Hudson Valley to Cover Firefighting & Emergency Protective Costs As Fire Depts. Continuously Work to Fight Back Flames
Schumer: We Need All Hands on Deck to Smother These Fires and the Fed Gov Must Do All It Can To Support Ulster and Sullivan County Communities
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged FEMA Regional Administrator Jerome Hatfield to be ready to quickly approve any request from New York State for federal support and resources for the ongoing forest fire that is currently ravaging the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest and adjacent communities in Ulster and Sullivan Counties. County officials are assessing the considerable level of threat and cost of this still-developing disaster to see if it meets the criteria needed for federal support, and, if it does, New York State will be able to seek a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declaration that would open the region up to receive federal funding. Schumer is requesting FEMA be ready to quickly approve any FMAG declaration for the affected area in Ulster and Sullivan Counties, along with any other counties impacted, if they qualify. New York State can request a FMAG declaration while the fire is burning uncontrolled and threatening such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. FEMA then approves or denies the request based on threat to lives and property, availability of state and local resources, high fire danger conditions, and potential major economic impact. Before an initial Fire Management Assistance Grant can be approved, the state must demonstrate that total eligible costs of firefighting and emergency protective measures exceed a cost threshold, which is approximately $1.4 million for New York State.
“We need all hands on deck to contain and put out this dangerous forest fire that is ravaging the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest and threatening many Ulster and Sullivan communities. The federal government, including FEMA which can approve a Fire Management Assistance Grant declaration, must do all it can to support Sullivan, Ulster and all surrounding counties currently working to smother these forest fires before they spread even further, destroying invaluable forestland and force more homeowners to evacuate. It is critical that we get federal resources on the ground as soon as possible, so that these Hudson Valley communities can cover the costs to fight back these fires as quickly as possible,” said Schumer. “So we want FEMA to stand ready to immediately approve a Fire Management Assistance Grant declaration as well as all other available support the very moment it hits their desk. Our firefighters are the first line of defense against this terrible wildfire and we need to make sure federal officials are approving their requests for the resources they need without delay.”
“We are appreciative of the commitment that Senator Schumer has to the people of Ulster County and the entire Hudson Valley in this moment of crisis. As we continue to fight this wildfire, we will need the resources and assistance of the federal government to extinguish the blaze, rehabilitate our local communities and restore the natural beauty of the Shawangunk Ridge Forest,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.
Schumer explained that the forest fire started just before noon on Sunday, May 3 in the Town of Mamakating. Officials suspect that the fire was started by a homeowner burning debris outside, which is in violation of a statewide burn ban. Currently, the fire has grown from 30 acres to more than 1,700 in the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest. Schumer said this is mainly due to windy conditions, including gusts up to 20 miles per hour. Residents have reported seeing thick gray smoke from the fire from miles away and many homes have been evacuated, particularly in communities like Cragsmoor. Schumer said that with more than 25 fire departments from around the Hudson Valley – including those in Sullivan, Ulster and Orange Counties – are working overtime to smother the fire’s flames but need all of the help they can get to battle the forest fire.
Schumer said firefighters and emergency responders are currently focused on keeping the fire contained, by using hand tools and construction vehicles to clear out dead leaves and other materials that are feeding the fire. Fire crews are also using a state police helicopter and National Guard helicopters to drop water and provide fire suppression support. Schumer said that it is clear these Hudson Valley communities and fire departments need all of the available financial, material and technical assistance they can receive, from all levels of government, to promptly contain this fire and to address its impacts on communities before it spread even further.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to FEMA appears below:
Dear Regional Administrator Hatfield:
I write in strong support of communities in the Hudson Valley that are currently being affected by the fast-moving wildfire. Should New York State determine that the threat of the fire warrants federal assistance, I urge you to approve their request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant declaration as expeditiously as possible.
The fire started just before noon on Sunday, May 3 in the Town of Mamakating. Officials suspect that the fire was started by a homeowner burning debris outside, which is in violation of a statewide burn ban. The fire has grown from 30 acres to more than 1,700 in the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest, because of windy conditions, including gusts up to 20 miles per hour. Residents have reported seeing thick gray smoke from the fire from miles away.
According to Ulster County officials, more than 25 fire companies from Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster Counties are assisting in fighting the fire. On Monday evening, the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department asked for precautionary evacuations for some residents in the Cragsmoor area. Firefighters are currently focused on keeping the fire contained, by using hand tools and construction vehicles to clear out dead leaves and other materials that are feeding the fire. Fire crews are also using a state police helicopter and National Guard helicopters to drop water and provide fire suppression support. Clearly, we need all available financial, material and technical assistance from all levels of government to promptly contain this fire, and to address its impacts.
I am grateful for the prompt attention that you and the entire federal government have given to quickly responding to disasters impacting New York State, and for your commitment to cutting bureaucratic red tape so that assistance can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. In that spirit, I ask you to stand ready to swiftly approve any Fire Management Assistance Grant requests from the state.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator