This can be awkward, asking the government for help. Gov. Jay Inslee recently asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — that our charred segment of Washington be declared a major disaster and therefore eligible for various forms of federal assistance. His request was granted, but only for Okanogan County and the Colville Tribes, and only for so-called “public assistance,” which is not assistance for the public, but aid to public agencies with infrastructure bashed or carbonized. FEMA denied Inslee’s request for assistance to individuals, even for Okanogan County where some 320 homes, hundreds of outbuildings, a multitude of livestock and many miles of grazing land were turned to ash overnight. As it stands individual grants for housing will not be coming, as much as they are needed.
This disaster wasn’t disastrous enough, FEMA explained. Which, in the Methow Valley must make a few people scratch their heads and ask, what do you have to do? The governor’s very thorough application to FEMA estimates the assessed value of the homes lost at $28 million. It estimates just 55 percent of the residents had insurance. Secondary economic losses were set at $70 million. That is a pretty heavy battering in a county with only 15,000 households total, a median household income of $41,000, devastation concentrated in the small communities of the Methow.