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Colorado lawmakers seek federal disaster aid for Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires

A smoke column rises from the West Fork Fire Complex in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. Photo courtesy InciWeb/Schlapfer

A smoke column rises from the West Fork Fire Complex in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Photo courtesy InciWeb/Schlapfer.

Congressional delegation also wants economic aid for communities and businesses affected by West Fork Fire Complex

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado’s polarized congressional delegation may not agree on much, but it did find common ground in asking for federal money to help parts of the state recover from recent wildfires.

The lawmakers this week sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to expedite and approve a request from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to issue federal major disaster declarations in response to the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires. The declaration would make federal resources available for response and recovery efforts. Click here to view the letter.

Additionally, the delegation asked for the Small Business Administration to quickly approve a disaster declaration for the massive West Fork Fire complex in Southwest Colorado to provide economic injury disaster loans to businesses affected by the fire. The sprawling blaze in the San Juans has effectively shut down parts of the area’s economically important summer tourism season.

In its letter, the delegation wrote, “At the height of these blazes, thousands of firefighters and other personnel engaged in combating the Black Forest Fire, the Royal Gorge fire, the East Peak Fire, the West Fork Fire complex, and other wildfires simultaneously burning across Colorado… A major disaster declaration will provide urgently needed resources and support to the state, communities, and especially the families who have been uprooted by these wildfires.”

Requests for a disaster declaration by the President must be made by the Governor of the affected state. Governor Hickenlooper made the request late yesterday. Once the declaration is made, it would make available a number of Federal programs to assist in the response and recovery efforts. The types of assistance made available, whether individual or public, are based on the needs found during a preliminary damage assessment conducted by state and Federal officials. Types of assistance may include temporary housing, home repair or replacement, debris removal, repairs and restoration to publicly-owned facilities, among others.

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