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So Far, Federal Wildfire Assistance Doesn't Include Direct Payments To Homeowners

AP Photo
This aerial photo shows structures which were destroyed by wildfires near Pateros, Wash. on Thursday, July 24, 2014.

Federal funds are being used to help fight the wildfires that have raged across the Northwest this summer. But so far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency isn't handing out money directly to owners of the nearly 200 homes lost in the blazes.

The Carlton Complex fire in central Washington and the Moccasin Hill fire in southern Oregon each left many families without a home.

Some of those affected by the Oregon blaze have pleaded to local officials for aid in rebuilding.

Generally local governments don't have the resources to hand out cash to disaster victims. But Karl Newman of the Seattle-based industry group Northwest Insurance Council said FEMA assistance isn't a magic bullet, either.

"Federal assistance typically comes in the form of fairly small grants that don't nearly cover the cost to rebuild a home," Newman said. "But they're there to help you get started in the form of low-interest loans."

The good news: Newman said most homeowner policies do cover wildfire loss. That's unlike damage from earthquakes or floods. Those typically require a separate policy.


Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.

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