The Biden administration has approved Washington state’s Major Disaster Declaration request for nine counties and two tribes in Eastern Washington that were affected by wildfires last year.
The approval comes after Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray wrote President Joe Biden asking that he do what President Donald Trump refused to do: approve federal assistance for the areas affected by the fires.
The September fires devastated the town of Malden, a rural community in Whitman County, destroying 80% of its homes and forcing the evacuation of people who are without federal aid, according to the senators. An estimated 626,982 acres burned throughout a five-day period, also ravaging Pine City.
“Our state experienced extensive damage during last year’s wildfire season, particularly in Central and Eastern Washington,” Inslee said in a statement Thursday. “While it has been a long wait, I’m pleased to say the Biden administration has approved our Major Disaster Declaration request for nine counties and two tribes in Eastern Washington.
“While we are still waiting on approval for our application for individual assistance in Whitman County, which would help private residents who lost homes or suffered property damage in the wildfires, today’s approval for FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] aid by the White House will help get these communities moving more swiftly toward recovery,” Inslee said.
Inslee twice requested a Major Disaster Declaration from Trump after wildfires tore through parts of the state in September.
Cantwell said in a statement Thursday: “No one should play politics with disaster relief. Now it is time to help Malden rebuild with this disaster declaration, which makes FEMA resources available to individuals and public assistance to communities to help rebuild things like roads, bridges, and power lines.”
The declaration does not come with a fixed dollar amount, but allows for communities and residents to apply for assistance through grants.