The Senate Republican Rural Caucus met with members of the Forestry Division from the Department of Agriculture today to discuss pressing issues regarding wildfires. Oklahoma has already seen a large amount of wildfires this year, and will only increase with the lack of rainfall expected in the western half of the state.
“We want to give our rural fire departments access to every possible resource,” said Senator Ron Justice, R-Chickasha and Chair of the Republican Rural Caucus. “They have been courageously fighting wildfires with limited supply, and we need to help them recoup these costs in every way we can.”
The Rural Caucus urges rural fire departments to seek the aid that is available to them. Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAGs) are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These FMAGs will provide recovery assistance to fire departments and other emergency organizations for the expense of resources necessary to respond. The FMAGs allow up to 75% reimbursement of expenses.
Once the state has accumulated $600,000 of expense or greater to fight wildfires, the departments can apply for federal aid.
FMAGS are processed through the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Division. Oklahoma has 11 rural fire department coordinators that are responsible for disseminating information and awareness of the grants and application process to fire departments throughout the state. Once a fire department completes a letter for reimbursement, it is sent back to the Forestry Division at the Dept. of Ag and they clear the request through FEMA. Turnaround usually takes 30 to 45 days for a department to receive support.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture will be sending a letter to all rural fire departments informing them of the FMAG if they have not been previously made aware of the grant.
“Unfortunately some politicians will use this as a time to find cameras and point fingers, but we are just concerned about what really matters which is getting our fire departments the aid that they need. We encourage fire departments affected by recent wildfires to apply for assistance if they are in need,” Justice concluded.