Declarations operate on a 24-hour real-time basis and are often conducted over the telephone with written follow-up. The Governor of a State submits the request for a fire management assistance declaration to the Regional Director while the fire is burning uncontrolled. The Regional Director gathers the State's information, calls upon the Principal Advisor for an assessment, and develops a Regional summary and recommendation to be forwarded to the FEMA Recovery Division Director, or designee. The FEMA Recovery Division Director approves or denies the State's request based on:
- The conditions that existed at the time of State's request;
- Whether or not the fire or fire complex threatens such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.
There are four criteria in which the FEMA Recovery Division Director, or designee, evaluates the threat posed by a fire or fire complex:
- Threat to lives and improved property, including threats to critical facilities/infrastructure, and critical watershed areas;
- Availability of State and local firefighting resources;
- High fire danger conditions, as indicated by nationally accepted indices such as the National Fire Danger Ratings System;
- Potential major economic impact.
After rendering a determination, the FEMA Recovery Division Director, or designee, notifies the Regional Director, who in turn notifies the State.
Refer to the Job Aids section of this site to access the FMAGP Declaration Process Flowchart and the FMAGP Overview.
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Submitting a Declaration Request
The Governor of a State or the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR) is authorized to submit requests for fire management assistance declarations. The GAR is the person empowered by the Governor to execute, on behalf of the State, all necessary documents for fire management assistance, including the declaration request.
The Governor or GAR must submit the declaration request, while the fire is burning uncontrolled and threatening such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. Since the FMAGP operates in real time during an incident (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), declaration requests can be processed at any time of day or night. To expedite processing the State’s declaration request, the Governor or GAR should submit his or her request by telephone to the FEMA Regional Director or designated Regional Fire Duty Liaison.
The State must follow up its phone request with the completed FEMA Form 90-58, Request for Fire Management Assistance Declaration. The information entered on Form 90-58 provides written confirmation of information submitted during the phone declaration request and is required for official FEMA files. FEMA Form 90-58 must be received in FEMA’s National Office within 14 days of the date of the phone request to the FEMA Regional Office. A copy of FEMA Form 90-58 can be found in the Forms section of this site.
Information for the Declaration Request
Required Information. When submitting a declaration request, the Governor or GAR should provide as much information as possible in support of the request. A State must include the following information, as available, in both its phone and written (FEMA Form 90-58) requests:
- Size of fire in acres or square miles;
- Name, location, and population of community(ies) threatened;
- Number and types of public facilities threatened;
- Number of primary and secondary residences and businesses threatened;
- Distance of fire to nearest communities;
- Number of evacuations to date, if applicable;
- Current and predicted (24-hour) weather conditions; and
- Degree to which State and local resources are committed to this fire and other fires in Federal, State, or local jurisdictions.
In support of its declaration request, the State may append additional documentation to FEMA Form 90-58, including:
- Fire severity maps;
- Geographic, topical, or land assessment maps; or
- Incident status summary report (Incident Command System (ICS)-209).
The State must submit its request while the fire is burning uncontrolled and threatening such destruction as would constitute a major disaster; therefore, the State should not delay submitting its declaration request even if certain information is not available at the time of the request. While more information may facilitate the declaration request process, additional supporting information may be furnished by the State, or requested by FEMA, after the initial declaration request has been received.
Fire Complex. A State may request assistance for a fire complex. In order to qualify, the fires within the complex must all be located in the same general area and managed by the same Incident Commander and be approved under the same fire declaration. Even though an entire complex may be designated in a declaration request, not all fires within the complex will automatically be qualified. FEMA, in cooperation with the State, will determine which fires are eligible under a fire management assistance declaration.
Incident Period.The incident period for a declared fire is usually not established until the fire is controlled. The FEMA Regional Director, in consultation with the GAR and the Principal Advisor, will determine the start and end dates of the incident period.
The incident period may start on the date of the fire management assistance declaration or with the initial firefighting actions at the time the fire threatens such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. The incident period is considered closed when the fire is controlled. The end of a shift or a workday normally marks the closing of the incident period. If the incident period starts before the date of the State’s declaration request, the factors and circumstances supporting that determination should be fully documented by the GAR and reviewed and approved by the Regional Director.
Generally, wildland firefighting costs must be incurred during the incident period of a declared fire to be considered eligible under FMAGP. Several exceptions to this rule exist for costs related to pre-positioning, mobilizing and demobilizing, as well as emergency work. These costs are discussed in detail in the Grant Eligibility section of this site.
Declaration Request Processing
The State’s declaration request is submitted to the FEMA Regional Office where the Regional Director or Regional Fire Duty Liaison reviews the request and, in coordination with the appropriate Principal Advisor, verifies the information submitted by the State. The Regional Office then submits the declaration request to FEMA’s National Office. The National Office receives, processes, and renders a decision on the State’s request for a fire management assistance declaration.
Due to the magnitude and impact of a fire, most declaration requests are verbally processed with written documentation following. All official forms and written information must be received by the FEMA National Office within 14 days of the State’s phone request.
The roles, duties, and responsibilities of each entity are described below.
State Role.The Governor or GAR is responsible for submitting a fire declaration request while the fire is burning uncontrolled and threatening such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. The GAR is encouraged to submit the information required for FEMA Form 90-58 declaration request by telephone to FEMA’s Regional Fire Duty Liaison. Following the phone request, the GAR must complete FEMA Form 90-58, Request for Fire Management Assistance Declaration, in support of its phone request and submit it to through the FEMA Regional Office to the National Office no later than 14 days after the date of its initial phone request.
FEMA Regional Office Role. FEMA’s Regional Office is responsible for receiving the declaration request and obtaining additional information from the State if the declaration request is incomplete. Once a formal declaration request is received, the Regional Fire Duty Liaison requests the Principal Advisor for an assessment, and notifies the National Office of the State’s request.
After all information is obtained from the State and verified, the Regional Office prepares an official Regional Summary and Recommendation for the State’s request. The Regional Office forwards the State’s request, Principal Advisor’s Report, and Regional Summary and Recommendation to FEMA’s National Office for consideration by the FEMA Recovery Division Director.
If the Principal Advisor is unavailable at the time of the State’s declaration request, the FEMA Regional Office should proceed with developing the Regional Summary and Recommendation and submitting the request to the National Office for review and determination, even though certain information is unavailable at the time of the request. FEMA uses the best available information at the time of the State’s request to render a determination.
Principal Advisor Role. The Principal Advisor provides technical assistance to FEMA regarding the uncontrolled fire or fire complex for which the State is submitting a declaration request. Specifically, the Principal Advisor assesses the threat to life and improved property (homes, critical facilities, and infrastructure), as well as fire weather, fire behavior, and fire prognosis. The Principal Advisor’s Report is used to verify the information submitted by the State. The Principal Advisor’s Report does not recommend whether to approve or deny a State’s declaration request.
The Principal Advisor completes the Principal Advisor’s Report (FEMA Form 90-32) and provides it to the FEMA Regional Fire Duty Liaison. To expedite the declaration request process, the Principal Advisor usually reports his or her findings to FEMA by telephone and follows up with a written Principal Advisor’s Report. The Principal Advisor’s Report is included as part of the State’s declaration request package submitted to the National Office. A copy of FEMA Form 90-32 can be found in the Forms section of this site. The Principal Advisor’s Report should be submitted through FEMA’s Regional Office to the National Office no later than 14 days after the date of the State’s request for a fire management assistance declaration.
FEMA National Office Role. The FEMA National Office receives and processes the State’s declaration request. The FEMA National Office approves or denies the State’s request based on the conditions that existed at the time of the State’s request and whether or not the fire or fire complex threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.
The FEMA Recovery Division Director, or designee, evaluates the declaration request and approves or denies the request based on:
- Evaluation criteria;
- Information provided in the State’s request;
- Principal Advisor’s Report; and
- Regional Summary and Recommendation.
After reviewing the declaration request package, the National Office may render a decision or request additional information. If a declaration is warranted, the National Office prepares a declaration package, which consists of a memorandum from the Recovery Division Director to the Regional Director, and a letter from the FEMA Recovery Division Director to the White House.
Declaration Request Evaluation
A State’s declaration request may be evaluated on the threat posed by a fire or fire complex based on one or more of the following information:
- The fire or fire complex threatens lives and improved property, including critical facilities/infrastructure and critical watersheds. Improved properties include but are not limited to:
Availability of Federal, State and local firefighting resources:
- Homes (single family and multi-family [i.e., townhouses, condos, apartments]);
- Hospitals, prisons, and schools;
- Police and fire stations;
- Water treatment facilities;
- Public utilities;
- Nuclear facilities; and
- Major roadways.
High fire danger conditions as indicated by nationally accepted indices:
- The degree of commitment by Federal, State, and local resources to other fires; and
- The lack of available Federal, State, and local wildland firefighting resources.
Potential major economic impact:
- National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS);
- Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) and Palmer Drought Index; and
- Haines Index.
- State level;
- Local level; and
- Regional level.
This information assists the FEMA National Office in determining whether the fire or fire complex threatens such destruction as would constitute a major disaster.
Notice of Declaration Approval or Denial
After the FEMA Recovery Division Director renders his/her determination on the State’s declaration request, the National Office contacts the FEMA Regional Fire Duty Liaison. The FEMA Regional Fire Duty Liaison telephones the Governor or GAR with notification of the determination. The FEMA Regional Office promptly follows up this telephone call with a confirming letter to the State from the Regional Director.
Appeals of Declaration Request
If a declaration request has been denied, the State may submit an appeal for a one-time reconsideration of its request. The appeal must be submitted in writing to the Regional Director no later than 30 days from the date of the letter denying the request. It should contain new information, unavailable at the time of the original request that, if presented, may have altered the original determination. The Regional Director reviews the appeal, prepares a recommendation, and forwards the appeal package to the National Office. The National Office notifies the State of the determination, in writing, within 90 days of receipt of the appeal or receipt of additional requested information.
The State may request a time extension to submit the appeal. This request must be submitted in writing to the Recovery Division Director, through the FEMA Regional Office, no later than 30 days from the date of the Regional Director’s notification letter denying the declaration request. The request for an extension must include a justification for the need of an extension. The National Office evaluates the need for the extension based on the reasons cited in the request and either approves or denies the request. Again, the State will be formally notified in writing through the FEMA Regional Office whether this extension has been granted.
Each State must have a formally approved State Mitigation Plan (SMP). A State or Indian Tribal government intending to apply to FEMA for assistance under the FMAGP that does not have an approved SMP per 44 CFR § 204.51(d)(2) must formally submit an acceptable SMP for FEMA’s review and approval within 30 days of the signature date of Exhibit E (amendment of the FEMA-State Agreement for the FMAGP). FEMA then has 45 days, whenever possible, to review the SMP. If the State or Indian Tribal government does not have an existing SMP and fails to submit one, FEMA can not approve the application for assistance under the FMAGP.
FEMA-State Agreement. The FEMA-State or FEMA-Tribal Agreement for FMAGP (“the Agreement”) is a legally binding document, similar to a contract, that outlines the understandings, commitments, and conditions under which funding is provided under fire management assistance declarations and all applicable laws and regulations. A FEMA-State Agreement Format is available in the Job Aids section of this site.
The Agreement is in effect for a calendar year. It must be updated annually and, ideally, should be signed each January before the start of fire season. The FEMA-State Agreement lists the GAR and other officials authorized to act on the behalf of the State. A FEMA-Tribal Agreement must be signed if a Tribal government wishes to serve as a dual Grantee.
A FEMA-State Agreement consists of the following five Exhibits (A FEMA-State Agreement template is available in the Job Aids section of this site):
- Exhibit A - State or Indian Tribal governmental officials authorized to execute certification and otherwise to act on behalf of the State
Exhibit A designates the GAR and Alternate GAR empowered by the Governor to execute all necessary documents for FMAGP, including the declaration request and application for a fire management assistance grant.
In cases where a FEMA-Tribal Agreement has been signed, Exhibit A designates and empowers an Indian Tribal authorized representative and alternate Tribal authorized representative, empowered by the Indian Tribal Chairman, to execute the application for a fire management assistance grant. Until Exhibit A has been completed, only the Indian Tribal Chairman has the authority to submit the application for a fire management assistance grant.
- Exhibit B - Certification regarding Drug-Free Workplace requirements
- Exhibit C - Certification for contacts, grants, loans, and cooperative agreements, new restrictions on lobbying
- Exhibit D - Disaster Grant Agreement articles
- Exhibit E - Amendment to the FEMA-State Agreement for the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program
After a State’s declaration request has been approved, the Governor should immediately sign Exhibit E (described below) of their FEMA-State Agreement for FMAGP. Exhibit E must be signed by the State (or Indian Tribal Chairman when appropriate), in concurrence with FEMA, for each declared fire that occurs within the calendar year.
Exhibit E contains specific information for each declared fire, including the name of the fire or fire complex, declaration number, affected counties, and incident period. Exhibit E must be completed for each declared fire and appended to the Agreement. The GAR or Indian Tribal representative authorized by Exhibit A can sign Exhibit E on behalf of the State or Indian Tribal government.
It is important to note that if the Agreement is signed after the first fire is declared, the Governor must sign both the Agreement and Exhibit E. If a State does not have a signed FEMA-State Agreement prior to submitting a declaration request to FEMA, the State should sign an Agreement immediately after FEMA has approved the declaration request. The State must submit the Agreement prior to or with the submittal of the FMAGP grant assistance request (Standard Form 424). Funding will not be obligated until the Agreement has been signed by the Governor (or Indian Tribal Chairman, when appropriate). Failure to sign the Agreement may result in a loss of funding.
Modifying a Declaration Request to Add Counties. If a declared fire or fire complex burns into adjacent counties, then the additional counties may be eligible for assistance under the declared fire. In order to qualify, the State must provide sufficient information to justify assistance. The requesting county should submit the same type of information provided to FEMA for the original declaration request. All information is evaluated on the threat of the fire, potential economic impact, weather conditions, and committed and available resources. Once all information has been evaluated, FEMA decides whether to designate the additional county. If the request to add counties is denied, the appeal process is the same as that for a denied fire declaration request (refer to 44 CFR 204.26)