Assessors with Washington state emergency management have been in the county this week to make initial estimates of fire-related damage to public infrastructure in towns and cities, water and sewer systems, powerlines and irrigation systems, according to Okanogan County Emergency Manager Scott Miller.

This assessment is the first step in the process for applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its “public assistance” program, said Miller. The state’s representatives will present their estimates—which must meet a minimum threshold of $9.3 million in damages—to FEMA on Thursday (July 31). The request for aid will then go through the governor, the regional FEMA office, and ultimately to President Obama. 

Miller is confident that losses will exceed the $9.3-million threshold. Nevertheless, that is not a guarantee of receiving a FEMA disaster declaration, which also takes into account the extent of property damage and loss of life, said Miller.

If the county is approved for the public assistance, FEMA would pay 75 percent of the damage. The state Legislature can elect to cover an additional 12.5 percent, and the remaining 12.5 percent will be paid by the public entities.

There is the possibility of qualifying for a separate program for “individual assistance,” which provides a maximum of $34,000 to individuals and businesses for uninsured losses, said Miller. 

The average grant in Washington was $3,500 to $5,000, said Hank Cramer, who works for the state’s emergency management department.

FEMA examiners will be here on Thursday and Friday (July 31 and Aug. 1) to evaluate the damage, said Miller.