The federal government has rejected Arizona’s request for a disaster declaration for the Yarnell Hill fire, which killed 19 firefighters and destroyed more than 100 structures in late June and early July.
Gov. Jan Brewer said Friday she was “deeply troubled” by the Obama administration’s “misguided decision” to deny the state’s request for a disaster declaration and access to a federal assistance program for individuals.
“The State of Arizona continues to mourn this tragedy, which took the lives of nineteen of our bravest first responders. While no amount of federal assistance could ever ease the pain of such an extraordinary loss, it would have provided significant financial relief to Yarnell and Peeples Valley,” Brewer said in a statement.
Approval would have brought long-term federal recovery programs to Yavapai County to help survivors and businesses that didn’t have adequate insurance. It also would have allowed a federal team to do flood prevention work.
Brewer pressed the president on her request Tuesday when he was in Phoenix to give a speech on housing and the economy and Obama reportedly assured the governor that he would look into it.
“I’m sure when he was talking to me on the tarmac he probably knew then but didn’t want to ruin his campaign-style speech…It is very disappointing and devastating news for the people of Yarnell,” Brewer told MyFoxPhoenix.com.
In the days after the fire, Brewer said Obama also called her and “pledged to support our state during its time of great need” and Vice President Joe Biden “reiterated that commitment at the memorial service for the Granite Mountain Hotshots.”
“With today’s denial of the state’s request, Arizonans are left questioning what help they were willing to give,” Brewer added. “I was hopeful the federal government would recognize the exceptionally devastating circumstances surrounding this tragedy and support Arizona’s request.”
Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans like Brewer, issued a joint statement to express their disappointment with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.