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Brewer appeals FEMA denial of Yarnell disaster declaration

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PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday asked the Obama administration to reverse a decision denying a federal disaster declaration for the fire-ravaged community of Yarnell.

The request, in a letter addressed to President Barack Obama through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cited what she called new facts about the wildfire’s impact.

“There are far more people that were under-insured than we originally had thought. We know that there are people that were totally uninsured,” Brewer said at a news conference. “Given the dynamics of the rural area in which they live, I think puts a complete and total different perspective on it.”

The Yarnell Hill Fire, which occurred in late June, killed 19 firefighters and destroyed more than 100 homes.

In July, FEMA rejected Brewer’s original request for assistance.

Joined by U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, Brewer said the federal government must treat what happened to Yarnell like any other disaster and said she was disappointed with Obama.

“We want them to do the job that they have done for all the other areas that have faced disaster in the past,” Brewer said.

Gosar said that even though Yarnell is a small community the magnitude of the natural disaster is overwhelming to the local government.

“This area is a very resilient area and they don’t ask for much. They ask the federal government to be equal in its application of the law,” he said.

Asked why the federal government, as opposed to the state, should assist, Brewer said it isn’t Arizona’s responsibility.

“We all pay taxes into the federal government, and this is a disaster,” she said. “It is a unique situation of a community up in rural Arizona that has been completely and totally destroyed.”

FEMA spokesman Dan Watson emailed a statement saying, in part, “In this case, based upon the findings of the joint federal, state and local preliminary damage assessment teams, it was determined that the damage to uninsured private residences from this event was not beyond the response and recovery capabilities of the state/local governments and voluntary agencies.”

The statement said that Arizona can seek help from other federal agencies including the Small Business Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Agriculture.