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Local News

Bush Issues Disaster Declaration, Grants Federal Aid for Fire Recovery

Residents and business owners in Santa Barbara County can apply for assistance starting Wednesday.

President Bush on Tuesday issued a major-disaster declaration for California and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the areas struck by wildfires.

David Paulison, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said federal funding is available to affected residents in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.

Assistance will include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

The devastating $5.7 million Tea Fire, which scorched 1,940 acres and destroyed 210 homes in its path through Santa Barbara and Montecito, broke out Thursday. One death has been linked indirectly to the fire and there have been a score of injuries, including three critical burn injuries.

Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures, and for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Mark Neveau has been named the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

Neveau said damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and additional counties may be designated for assistance after the assessments are completed.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance Wednesday by registering online at or by calling 800.621.3362, or 800.462.7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired, between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.

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