updated 3:49 PM UTC, Jul 23, 2020

FEMA reimburses local VFDs for 2011 firefighting costs

by Dale Freeman, Tyler County EOC

As I sit here listening to the rain on the metal roof of the Emergency Operations Center I contemplate how ironic it is that while it is raining I am trying to figure out the division of the money received for the Wildfire Disaster activities during the drought of last year. Nature is sending us relief from the drought in the form of rain and the Federal and State Government is sending us financial relief for our Fire Departments for fighting those fires.

Today, July 10th, 2012 two payments were received by the Tyler County Treasurer. The funds were direct-deposited and the Auditor was notified of the receipt. I was given a copy of the money transfer receipt from the State to Tyler County but there was no clear indication what the money was for. Only that they were both for Disaster Relief #1999. The two checks (totaling over $75,000) is a welcome dilemma to encounter. What I figured out is these checks along with another for almost forty thousand dollars, already received and distributed, covers the fire Departments activities during the time period of April 6 to August 31. This money (totaling $115,000) represents almost all that is due the departments for this time period. The amount remaining is being withheld by the State and FEMA until the final audit of the paperwork which could be as much as a year or two down the road. This amount is probably around $4,500. Whenever that is released, it too will be delivered to the Volunteer Fire Departments.

The money that was received reimburses the Volunteer Fire Departments for the use of their equipment in firefighting operations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) policy is to reimburse at a rate of 75 percent value of the equipment use and other expenses incurred. The remaining 25 percent is the local share or responsibility. On this disaster, FEMA has allowed the local entities to use their donated resources (mainly firefighter labor) to offset that 25 percent.

One check that was received is for the equipment usage for the time period of May 4 to August 31 ($45,924.53). This is 75 percent of the equipment use value claimed, less a 10 percent withholding till the audit. The other payment I learned was the release of the local match of 25 percent when that was found to be covered by firefighter labor. You recall the first payment received and distributed (just under $ 40,000) was for the time period of April 6 to May 3. This second payment (over $30,297.17) represents 25 percent of the time period of April 6 to May 3 added to the 25 percent of the time period of May 4 to August 31.

Checks will be immediately cut and delivered to the volunteer fire departments that are due them.

Still pending is the reimbursement for the time period of September 1 to December 31 and the 10 percent withheld pending audit.

This process, now approaching completion has been quite a challenge for me. The Wildfire Disaster was my first dealings with FEMA and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). Although I had no idea or experience creating the reports, I was working with FEMA personnel who also were encountering a new and different disaster that none of them had worked before. They did not know how this was going to play out. It was through trial and error and an incorporation of ideas that worked best from many different sources that brought us through the process and to this point.

I have heard many horror stories of problems dealing with FEMA and TDEM in disaster situations. My experience was that they were the nicest and most agreeable people to deal with. It was not all a piece of cake or wine and roses. There were points of contention. I stood my ground where I believed I had merit and with proper explanations won those points and kept my claim intact. However, when my cause was not so good, I did not push that issue. Like most things, common sense and good relations carried the day and Tyler County claims were much of the basis for establishment of the norm or model that was used by the other counties that followed. As far as I know, we were the first to receive the first payment and again, I believe we are the first to get this payment.

I hope this keeps everyone informed of the activities that are occurring every day to insure that Tyler County has the best services possible and can respond effectively to any situation that my occur.

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