Many parts of the power grid, like this transformer near Black Canyon, were destroyed by the fire. The most seriously damaged areas were in the lower Methow Valley and in the Chiliwist, where a PUD staffer said the power line had “evaporated.” Photo by Marcy Stamper

Many parts of the power grid, like this transformer near Black Canyon, were destroyed by the fire. The most seriously damaged areas were in the lower Methow Valley and in the Chiliwist, where a PUD staffer said the power line had “evaporated.” Photo by Marcy Stamper

By Marcy Stamper

President Obama approved the request for a disaster declaration for public assistance connected with the Carlton Complex Fire on Monday (Aug. 11), according to a spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee.

The major disaster declaration under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will compensate the Okanogan County, towns and cities, and electric utilities for 75 percent of their expenses for materials and labor to repair damage to public infrastructure.

A separate request for individual assistance, which would permit individuals affected by the fire to apply for grants, is still under review, said the spokesperson. Inslee also recommended approval of the individual assistance program.

Governor Jay Inslee approved the requests on Wednesday, Aug. 6, almost immediately after receiving them, noting the unprecedented size and destruction of the wildfire. In his request, he noted that the fire burned more than 400 square miles, at one point “devouring an average of 3.8 acres a second.”

Inslee also pointed to the loss of more than 300 homes and other structures—$28 million worth of private property—in Okanogan County. He said that the proportion of people in the county with homeowners’ insurance is below average and affordable housing is already in short supply.

Inslee also noted the significant impact on the agricultural industry and the potential for long-term impacts to local businesses and the environment.

The FEMA declaration provides assistance to Okanogan county and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Local governments and utilities are expected to pay the remaining 25 percent of the damage to public infrastructure, unless the state Legislature elects to cover an additional 12.5 percent.