EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — Caldor Fire survivors, El Dorado County and state leaders have pleaded to President Joe Biden: approve FEMA funds for homeowners to rebuild their homes in Grizzly Flats.

In a video published by El Dorado County Communications, two Caldor Fire survivors share their personal stories to appeal to President Biden’s heart alongside El Dorado County Supervisor George Turnboo.

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The nearly six-minute video recounts the last year, starting with California’s 15th largest wildfire in state history, the Caldor Fire, that destroyed 819 homes and burned from August to October 2021. In it, video of Biden’s visit in September 2021, alongside Governor Gavin Newsom, where he promised to approve federal funding to help.

He would later approve FEMA to provide Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Assistance for the Caldor Fire, but Individual Assistance was not granted. The individual funding is dedicated to helping those impacted by natural disasters to rebuild their homes. The funding, provided for other California wildfires in the last five years, can be hundreds of millions of dollars in relief funding strictly to help homeowners rebuild their homes.

Why did the Caldor Fire survivors not qualify for Individual Assistance?

According to a statement provided to CBS13, and a letter sent to the California Office of Emergency Services:

“Based on documentation provided by the state and collected in our joint preliminary damage assessments, the agency determined that the impact to individuals and households from the Caldor Fire was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of the Individual Assistance program.”

Federal disaster assistance decisions for individual assistance are based on six factors, according to FEMA’s website, including the available resources of state and local governments.

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When FEMA evaluates requests for Individual Assistance, the factors considered include:

  • State fiscal capacity and resource availability
  • Uninsured home and personal property losses impacted
  • Disaster impacted population profile special populations
  • Impact to community infrastructure
  • Casualties
  • Disaster related unemployment

A FEMA spokesperson added that there are still resources available for Caldor Fire survivors through local, state, and nonprofit resources like the U.S. Small Business Administration and various other resources.

Not getting Individual Assistance, not typical for in some of the state’s recent large wildfires. Compared to the Caldor Fire, survivors of the 2020 Dixie Fire and 2018 Camp Fire received Individual Assistance, as well as Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation.

“Unfortunately, for us, we had no insurance, for somebody who was a homeowner up here to get insurance was near impossible. Now we have what we took out in the fire, that’s it,” said Candace Tyler in a video released by El Dorado County. 

Ultimately, the county’s video plea to Biden may be a long-shot, as it’s the President’s decision as to who received Individual Assistance, not FEMA.

In total, after the Caldor Fire, FEMA granted $94,255,788.86 in public assistance grants obligated and $44,809.54 through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

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Compare those funds to what survivors of the Dixie Fire received through Individual Assistance to rebuild their homes — 8,075 applications were approved that totaled more than $91 million for housing assistance and other needs assistance through FEMA.