Segment 2 Of 2     Previous Hearing Segment(1)

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Monday, June 21, 1999
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Emergency Management, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure joint with the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, Committee on Resources, Washington, D.C.

    The Subcommittees met, pursuant to call, at 10:50 a.m., in the Ormond Beach City Commissioners' Chambers, 22 South Beach Street, Ormond Beach, Florida, Hon. Tillie Fowler [Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee] and Hon. Helen Chenoweth [Chairman of the Forests Subcommittee] presiding.
    Ms. FOWLER. I want to apologize for our late start. As some of you might have read, we have been up—most Subcommittee members have been up touring in Flagler County and part of Volusia County because I wanted our members who have come from Nebraska, from Utah, Idaho, from north Florida, all around, to see exactly what we experienced a year ago, because reading about it is one thing, seeing it is another. But the tour took a little longer than we had planned, so I apologize for our getting started late. But we wanted them to see this area.
    I want to thank all of you for coming today to participate in this very important hearing on the wildfires of 1998, and I do appreciate my colleagues who have come from Washington and as I said, from all around this country, and have taken time out of their busy schedules to shed some light on this very important issue. Judging from all of us here today, I know we can all agree on how important this issue is to all Floridians, and I especially want to thank my very good friend, Congressman Helen Chenoweth, for coming to Florida and serving as the Co-Chair of this hearing. Ms. Chenoweth and I have been talking about this hearing now for months and I really appreciate her interest, as Chairman of the Forests Subcommittee, in this area of the country and what was happening here. So I appreciate her taking the time and showing the interest she has in this.
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    This is a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Emergency Management, which I chair, and the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, which Congressman Chenoweth chairs.
    The purpose of the hearing is to assess the response to the Florida wildfires of 1998, to evaluate the current mitigation process, and to discuss methods of coordinating response actions and recovery efforts of all the agencies involved.
    The wildfires of 1998 were devastating for the State of Florida, as those of us here know. In fact, they were by far the most devastating wildfires in Florida's history. There were nearly 2300 wildfires that burned almost 500,000 acres throughout Florida.
    More than 300 homes and 30 businesses were damaged or destroyed and there was a loss of more than $300 million as a result of lost timber. There were about 193 injuries reported. To finally bring the fire under control, the State made use of more than 10,000 firefighters from 47 states and more than 150 aircraft. And I understand this was the largest coordinated fire response in the history of our country, some think—a major undertaking.
    To date, already in 1999, there have been more than 3976 fires in our state of Florida, burning more than 350,000 acres. And we are only halfway through 1999. So far, 29 firefighters have been injured in combatting these fires and we have already had more fires in 1999 than we had in all of 1998.
    So to put it simply, these wildfires are not only a threat to our delicate environment, but a threat to our homes and to the safety of our families. Therefore, it is imperative that the Federal, state and local governments work together to respond to emergency needs. The cooperation in 1998 was overwhelming and everyone who participated in extinguishing the fires should be commended for their efforts.
    That does not just mean the firefighters, the emergency management teams, the police, and the Forestry Services, but also the citizens of Florida, who all came together to aid their neighbors. The members of our community should be commended, because you all remember how many were helping each other supply food, water, clean clothes to friends, to the firefighters. In fact, one of the emergency management team members who came up from south Florida to help with the fires was telling me, he said he was so impressed, he said there was the nicest lady—and he was up in this area—he said she would come by every day and pick up the dirty laundry of the firefighters and a few hours later, here would come clean clothes for them. You know, they were trying to help in any way they could to show their appreciation to these people out here fighting the fires. So our community really was thankful and grateful.
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    There were, however, some issues that should be addressed and improved upon, in order to effectively work together in the future to combat natural disasters such as these wildfires.
    The Governor's Wildfire Response and Mitigation Review Committee drew up an assessment of the wildfires of 1998 that analyzed the strengths and the weaknesses of that particular operation. The report focused on the need for even greater cooperation between Federal, state and local governments.
    In 1998, the State of Florida was able to work together with local and Federal Governments to successfully navigate through the wildfire crisis.
    I want to commend all that were involved for their efforts and commitment to ensuring public safety. But in order to truly ensure future public safety, we must look back to the fires of 1998 and learn from both the mistakes and the successes of that operation.
    So I look forward to hearing the testimony of all of our witnesses today and working on achieving more cohesive emergency management between the Federal, state and local governments.
    I would now like to recognize the Co-Chairman of this hearing, Congressman Chenoweth, for her opening statement.
    Congressman Chenoweth.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Congressman Fowler. It is a real pleasure to be here in Florida in your District. It is absolutely beautiful. Quite different from my District in western Idaho, but it is beautiful and I am thrilled to be your guest down here on this very, very important issue.
    Wildfire issues cover such a broad array of factors and disciplines, that to try to comprehend them all is an overwhelming task, but one that must be undertaken because of the huge costs to life and property and the financial resources of this country.
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    In the last few years, my Subcommittee has held numerous hearings and initiated a number of analyses in order to make Congress a constructive and proactive partner in this dialogue with the states and the local units of government. Some of the things that we have learned in this effort have been very positive and very promising, such as the overall ability and the desires of local, state, and Federal entities to work together in wildfire suppression efforts. And I am very pleased also at what I have learned about communications efforts. That was so critical in the fires and much has been done in that area, and I commend all of you for that. Other things that we have learned and witnessed, however, have been distressing, such as the Forest Service's inability to treat forests, before the fact, to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
    The bipartisan General Accounting Office recently finished a study for me that shows that the total number and size of fires in the United States have increased exponentially in recent years, as have the costs associated with fighting fires, but that the Forest Service has yet to develop a cohesive strategy concerning mitigation and prevention efforts on their own lands. Unless this is done, it will again impact state, county and private lands. Equally disturbing is the poor record that the Forest Service has demonstrated in salvaging dead and dying trees in a timely manner after the fires have occurred.
    But in response to these problems, I have introduced two bills this year—one dealing with the removal of hazardous fuels in the wildland/urban interface, and another allowing for the use of expedited processes in the case of forest emergencies—but much more needs to be done. Last year's fires in this state have given us an excellent case study from which to learn and from which to develop other legislation and to make other recommendations for improving current programs and processes.
    I look forward to working with all of you and my colleagues here today in this endeavor.
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    And again, thank you for inviting me down, Congressman Fowler.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Congressman Chenoweth.
    I would now like to—Congressman Allen Boyd from Monticello, Florida is with us. Allen, do you have an opening statement you would like to present?
    [The statement of Ms. Chenoweth follows:]

    [insert here]

    Mr. BOYD. Thank you, Chairman Fowler. I want to thank you and Ms. Chenoweth for bringing us together down here.
    I do have a statement prepared for the record that I would like to submit and just briefly summarize by saying that I hope that as we hear the panelists today, that we can address three basic issues.
    First of all, what can we do to prevent such disasters from happening, issues such as prescribed burning and prepositioning of assets—resources.
    Secondly, what can we do to respond to such disaster in a better, more effective way. I know I have read the statements of all of you folks that are going to testify today and you talk a lot about communications and coordinated efforts and training.
    And thirdly, what can we do to mitigate the damage once the disaster has happened. I know there are some issues here that we will be hearing from Mr. Peterson and others about salvage timber and also we will be hearing from some of you local government folks about debris removal.
    So I hope those are some of the questions that we can get answered today and I want to thank you all for having me.
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    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Boyd. And without objection, your written statement will be included in the record.
    I would now like to call on Congressman Lee Terry from Omaha, Nebraska, who is Vice Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee, if he has an opening statement he would like to make.
    Mr. TERRY. I will simply submit my opening statement for the record, but I do want to thank you for inviting me down here. The tour this morning has already been an education in itself, to see the dramatic effects of the fire.
    We have had a series of hearings that you have chaired in this Subcommittee dealing with the Federal role in these types of disasters. So I am here to learn today what occurred in Florida by way of communication, coordination; especially in regard to FEMA's role.
    What we have learned is that sometimes the best job we can do on the Federal level is simply to empower the local officials, who know better how to handle these types of situations, and just offer the necessary support.
    I too glanced through your statements, but I am going to listen to pieces of advice that you can give us on where we can offer support to the local officials, who are the first responders, the ones who are out on the lines, not only by way of communication, but equipment.
    That is what I am going to be listening for and the goals that I have set for myself today.
    So with that, the remainder of my statement, I will submit for the record. Thank you, Chairman.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you. Without objection, your written statement will also be included in the record.
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    Congressman John Mica who, as you all know, represents-part of Volusia County, has submitted a statement on the wildfires, and without objection, we will include it in the record also. If there are no objections, then that will be included in the record.
    Due to an illness in his family, he could not be with us today, but he wanted to have his statement in the record.
    [The statement of Mr. Mica follows:]

    [insert here]

    Ms. FOWLER. If there are no further statements now, I would like to call the first panel that is here before us.
    We have today—I would like to introduce the distinguished Mayor of the City of Ormond Beach, the Honorable David Hood.
    Next, the Director of Volusia County Emergency Management Services, Jim Ryan.
    The Director of Flagler County Emergency Management Services, Eric Gentry.
    We have Barry Baker, Chief of the Ormond Beach Fire Department.
    And finally, Paul Skinner, Chief of the Daytona Beach Fire Department.
    Welcome, gentlemen. You are all uniquely qualified to discuss last year's fires. You were on the front lines. I know, Eric, you are new here, but I know they have already made you feel like you are on the front lines with what you have had to do coming on board in the middle of this. But I know you know first-hand what to tell us today.
    Before we proceed with any testimony, we will swear you in. This has been the practice of the Subcommittee going back to its earliest days, and it is also the practice of the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and my instructions now will also stand for the next panel too.
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    The Chair notes that this is not a hostile hearing, but the copies of Committee Rules spelling our your rights and the limitations on the power of the Subcommittee are available. The Chair also notes that you are entitled to be advised by counsel during your testimony if you so desire—this is what I have to say.
    And now I would like if you could each just stand and raise your right hand so I can administer the oath.
    [Witnesses sworn.]
    Ms. FOWLER. Please be seated.
    Mayor Hood will be our lead-off witness, and Mayor, what we will ask—and this will go for each of the witnesses, if you could summarize your testimony in five minutes or less, and then without objection, the full written statements that you each have submitted will be included in the record and then we will withhold all of our questions until all panel members have testified. And then this procedure will apply to all panels. Mayor Hood.
    Mayor HOOD. Thank you, Madam Chairman and Committee.
    I am going to focus on a couple of practical aspects, since you already have a huge volume of paperwork in the back I am sure you have read.
    The first area is planning and prevention. I frankly think a great deal of the planning and prevention really needs to be focused at the local level, but there is one area that the Federal Government ought to involve themselves. And that is to ensure that the local governments do things in their local land development codes such as making sure there are buffers between the urban interface. These are development issues that need to be handled at the local level, but if you do not have the ability to withhold money on reimbursement under FEMA and other area, you know, what we all know is it is easy for the local community not to do the hard thing.
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    It seems to me the one lesson I learned out of this was when you are allowing development in our particular area out west or you do it in Palm Coast, and you do not require the developer to have buffer zones so that the firefighters are able to prevent the incursion of wildfires into the developed area, you end up risking property, life and also costing the Federal Government, the local government and the state government more than it probably would cost if you did some of those preventive measures.
    So the first thing I would suggest is that when you look at your Federal reimbursement rules under FEMA, that you put an incentive clause so that if the local government wishes to be reimbursed for the expenses, then one of the things you should look at is if in fact the local government has done some of the things that ought to be done to preclude the expense and the problems that we had.
    The second thing is a practical one that I, as an elected official, quickly found. When you get elected to these type of offices, nobody tells you how to do your job, nobody tells you this is what you need to do and go do. All I know is I am sitting in trial in Pensacola and my fire chief calls me and says we have got a real problem here, we need some help. Fundamentally the problem was we had very good people, but we did not have sufficient resources to do it.
    Fortunately, I had personal knowledge of Chairman Fowler. I am on the way back on the interstate and I find you I think at 1:00 a.m. in the morning.
    Ms. FOWLER. Right.
    Mayor HOOD. And through our own personal relationship, we were able to get the resources directed to what we needed. And without those resources, we would have gone from a crisis to a tragedy.
    What I think—and this goes back to FEMA reimbursement again—every local area ought to have a book that an elected official gets that says when you have a hurricane, you have a tornado, you have a wildfire, you have a situation like that, these are the statutory provisions for who you must call to bring resources to bear. Here are the phone numbers, and they need to be phone numbers that are up to 5:00 in the afternoon and phone numbers after 5:00 in the afternoon. We were very lucky in that I had Chairman Fowler's home number and other numbers from other deals. And without Chairman Fowler intervening on our behalf, I promise you, the next day would have been a complete and utter disaster. And it was only through her efforts at getting the resources placed immediately that we saved our problem.
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    Now I do not know if the next mayor will have any clue or have any ability to know who to call at 8:00 or 9:00 at night to get that. That ought to be required, and FEMA ought to require that to be in everybody's—every local elected place, if they want to get reimbursed.
    The second question—and the last point that I will make—it is bizarre to me that in a country of our size, where we have continuing natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and we get to each one of these things, the one thing I have noticed in the two that I have been involved in, you have got all these people who show up to help, which is great. But most of them have different communication systems. One has got an 800 megahertz, another has a different kind of system. Why this country simply does not go ahead and invest in a cache of communication equipment sufficient to handle any size emergency so that when you reach that threshold emergency that requires Federal assistance, that entire communications system is sent to wherever the problem is and everybody can speak on the same communication system.
    That is an expense frankly that the local governments cannot handle, the state governments should not handle. It is something that we ought to have—most disasters are regional, and so that would be the other area that I would strongly urge the Federal Government ought to get involved in to where we send these emergency responses with an entire cache of communication equipment that everybody can talk on.
    Thank you very much.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mayor Hood.
    Mr. Ryan.
    Mr. RYAN. Chairman Fowler, Chairman Chenoweth, members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear today to provide information I hope that will clarify some of Volusia County, Florida's involvement in Wildfires 1998.
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    Since our time is short today, I want to proceed right into the specifics of my testimony. The details, of course, are contained in my statement that was submitted to the Committee.
    Our Volusia County After Action Report provides many of the details that were associated with this event and is generally consistent with the report of the Governor's Wildfire Response and Mitigation Review Committee. And it was my pleasure to serve on that technical committee in that effort.
    The testimony that I will provide today will only address those specific items where there would be Federal involvement.
    The first area that I wanted to emphasize was the need for unified command. This was—the Florida Wildfires 1998 was a very, very complex event. Perhaps firefighters at the Federal level have called this even the most complex fire event ever. We believe that this was the first time that Federal overhead teams had ever unified with a local fire department. Several factors made it exceptionally difficult, even under the unified command concept, to operate at a local level, the first of which was the tactically unsound, but necessary at the time, decision to divide Volusia County into three zones. It required an extraordinary amount of local coordination among those agencies to effect the most simple operational requirements.
    Secondly, strategic and tactical decisions would have been better implemented and resources would have been managed much more efficiently had the fruits of this unified command been pursued.
    Additionally, local government can provide a greater degree of assistance to Federal forces in this unified command concept when those Federal forces enter the local area. We have resources that we had used, for example, providing billeting, other logistical requirements of the Federal forces—we had a better idea where you could get them. And this was especially critical because of the Pepsi 400 that occurred at the time. There was not a room for quite a good ways around. So that local coordination, again within that unified command, provides benefits to the Federal forces as well as the local forces.
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    The second item is the early integration of aviation resources. I am convinced within a shadow of doubt that the key to success on this particular event, especially in the area of fire suppression actions and those relating to firefighter safety had to do with the employment of aviation resources. This, I think by far, is the most significant force multiplier in a wildland/urban interface fire scenario such as what we faced in Volusia County.
    The third topic—reimbursement processes—just too complicated. Surrounded by smart people unfortunately was no benefit. We struggled through this process. Volusia County, among other Florida counties were authorized debris removal only when it was associated with emergency protective measures given the Stafford—given the implication of the Stafford Act.
    And despite, I think, the well intent of Federal Government to provide reimbursement through fire suppression grant mechanisms, this was exceptionally burdensome to local governments and it required local government to try to shoehorn reimbursement claims into areas perhaps that they should not have fit but could have fit very easily in others.
    For example, if Category A, which is debris removal authorized under the Stafford Act, had been authorized, we estimate that Volusia County would have had an additional $1 million in debris removal claims submitted. To date, Volusia County has received $1.1 million in fire suppression grant reimbursement, and this of course was at a much higher level, 100 percent. But we have yet to receive any of the $2.2 million public assistance claims.
    Simply stated, the reimbursement process, one declaration should get it all rather than forcing local government to fight a system that is cumbersome under the best terms.
    And the last item in the reimbursement complications is that hazard mitigation monies that are normally provided to local government, roughly to the tune of 15 percent, are computed based upon the total amount of Federal assistance provided. The fire suppression grants were not included in that category and although the state received the lion's share of the hazard mitigation monies and applied them to the Department of Forestry, which was appropriate, nevertheless, Volusia, Flagler and Brevard, the three counties most significantly impacted by this event, received only $20,000 each in hazard mitigation monies. We think that that process can be combined much better.
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    Lastly, training is essential to team building and key to success. The most significant benefit that the Federal Government has provided local government, we think, indirectly and directly, has been in the way of training and education. In May 1997, we sent 112 local officials, representing a variety of local jurisdictions and agencies to Emmitsburg, Maryland EMI campus. Although the course was for hurricane, it provided a very sound foundation for the development of a team approach to the unique problems associated with any type disaster.
    While in attendance at EMI, our attendees heard first-hand how the training provided at similar integrated emergency management courses had directly benefitted such jurisdictions as Oklahoma City and others, enabling them to meet extraordinary circumstances during the disasters they faced. With the Florida wildfires of 1998, it can be said that this is true for Volusia County—that training paid off.
    This concludes my remarks today and in support of my written testimony that was provided earlier. Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Ryan.
    Before we go to Mr. Gentry, I want to welcome Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who has joined us. As you know, Congresswoman Brown represents also Volusia and Flagler Counties and we are so pleased to have you with us today. Thank you for joining us.
    Do you have any statement you wanted to make?
    Ms. BROWN. I do, but I will submit my full statement to the record and maybe after we finish this panel, I can make my statement.
    Ms. FOWLER. Without objection, it will be included for the record. Thank you.
    And now I want to welcome Mr. Gentry, who is the newest member of this team, the Flagler County Emergency Management Services Director. Thank you for being with us.
    [The statement of Ms. Brown follows:]
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    Mr. GENTRY. Thank you. Let me first begin by saying thank you to the Committee and to the Co-Chairs for the opportunity to address the Committee today.
    The first thing I would like to begin with, as I summarize my written suggestions, is, one, some suggested changes in fire suppression grants. That is a topic that I believe you are going to hear over and over, but one thing I would like to point out is the need to make these monies available prior to the disaster. This is, in my opinion, a disaster that is somewhat predictable. We see the drought index rising, we see the conditions becoming prevalent for the spread of wildfire. Yet the way it has been done in the past, we had to either have already lost large tracts of acreage, we had to either have lost structures before the fires could become eligible so that we could then prevent the loss of further structures and homes. And that seems to me—for example in earthquakes, I mean the damage happens, we do not necessarily know it is coming ahead of time. So the damage happens, we go in, it is assessed, and we find out if there is going to be reimbursement assistance.
    But in this scenario; for example, in a structure fire scenario, we do not wait to purchase a fire truck until we have a house fire. So what I would like to suggest is that we actively pursue ways to make the funds available in such a timeliness that we can bring in the resources that we need to combat these fires before they are actually needed, so hopefully we can catch these fires while they are small and keep the disaster from repeating itself.
    The next thing is a more mandated approach to the use of incident command or incident management. While many of the agencies involved used these management techniques during the fires, there are many agencies that then do not. So again, people are having to learn on the job and that is not necessarily the place nor the time. And just as it is mandated in hazmat incidents and some other type incidents, the use of incident command or incident management could be mandated, a little more widespread.
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    The third thing is a better understanding of local districts and procedures by the mutual aid responders that are coming in. One thing that I believe happens is obviously there is difference in the fires in the western United States in large expanse areas of land, and there are not many people in those areas. One thing—and we heard a lot about who was in charge last year. Well, obviously Forestry, you know, they have the statute authority when you deal with wildfires. But what I would like to point out, most all of the fires that burned were in a local fire district. So day-to-day—and I am not getting into a debate about who is in charge, but what I would like to point out is that day-to-day you have a local fire department that responds to that area, regardless of what the call is, whether it is a wildfire, whether it is a structure fire.
    When we had all the help from the responders coming in, which was great, there was a little reluctance there necessarily to work side-by-side in some cases with the structural firefighters because, for example, they were not red card certified. Well, that is a training issue that needs to be addressed, but at the same time there has to be an understanding by all the folks coming in of what the local procedures are. Just as if Florida ever has the opportunity to return the favor and go into other jurisdictions to help, we need to make sure that the briefings that are held are what the local procedures call for, because obviously the firefighters that were in there working, that had been working for days, they need to be, I guess you would say, replenished and the mutual aid needs to cover those firefighters as well, whether they are structural or forestry.
    Increase the number of aircraft utilized for firefighting, again just to summarize. All these fires started somewhere and they all started small. The aircraft in many cases would be the only means—during your tour today, you saw the vegetation cover that the firefighters and people have to deal with here. Quite often these fires are not even located, no one even knows they are burning. Out in areas of western Flagler County, for example, fires can burn there for quite awhile before anyone would even know that they are there. So aircraft to spot and then aircraft to make an initial attack through the state and Federal Governments would be a tremendous help.
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    Debris removal assistance of burned timber in urban interface areas. As Jim Ryan was just pointing out, debris removal was not in itself declared as part of this disaster. In the urban interface areas, you know, that is one thing—we do not leave debris laying around following hurricanes and other natural disasters. And just to say well is this an unsightly nuisance or is this truly a health hazard is not something necessarily—if it is debris, it is debris. And just because it is caused by wildfire, whether it is tornado, wildfire or earthquake, debris should be cleaned up.
    Increase the wildfire mitigation efforts. And when I say increase, one thing we have to do at the local level is we have to make sure the lessons learned this year are not forgotten. We need to help with that at the Federal Government, we need help with state government and obviously at the local level, that is something we will continue because Flagler County—I was not here at the time obviously, but they suffered tremendous fire losses in 1985. So again, these are lessons that have to be learned but obviously we have to continue to learn from them and continue these fire mitigation efforts long after this group is off doing their other jobs.
    Really the last thing I would like to touch on is just a quick point that we need to increase the availability of Federal surplus property to the local fire departments. We are not exactly the top on the priority list as it stands now if you are outside of law enforcement and some other things. Some of the equipment, while Forestry has worked very well in getting us that equipment, again, in some cases it gets a little picked through before it gets to the firefighting usage. And that is something that at least in those things that we can utilize for firefighting, I think the fire service should receive priority.
    Again, thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Gentry.
    Fire Chief Baker.
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    Mr. BAKER. Thank you, Madam Chairman, members of the Committee.
    It is a distinct honor and a professional privilege to be invited to testify before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Emergency Management and the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, regarding the Florida wildfires of 1998.
    As citizens of this nation and many other countries watched the Florida wildfires event unfold in the media, the City of Ormond Beach found itself one of the most impacted communities during those fires. Bordered by Flagler County to the north and Volusia County to the west and south, Ormond Beach was in the middle of the most significantly affected area in all of the Florida wildfire events. In the end, Ormond Beach had received aid from 46 states and countless state and Federal agencies to manage those events last summer.
    Ormond Beach is extremely grateful for the aid that others gave to this city in their most critical time of need. This city was one of the most successful in combatting the wildfires and has become insightful in planning to reduce the risk of future wildfire events. That being said, I have formulated several areas of focus that may assist in being better prepared for wildfire, and other like events. They include:
    Common command structure. You already heard that it is critical that local, state and Federal responders use an incident management system that both readily integrates other responders and easily adapts to multi-agency use. The system recommended by myself, the State of Florida and most Federal agencies is the National Interagency Incident Management System, commonly known as NIIMS. I highly encourage the support for a one management system, and more specifically, the NIIMS system.
    Secondly, it is critical that the various agencies, local, state and Federal, jointly train and practice this system prior to an emergency. Simply having a structured process on paper falls short of the need to physically interact with the agencies that may become involved in any anticipated emergency. It should be recognized, as was pointed out earlier, that an emergency is not the place to refine any process. Therefore, I support this multi-agency integrated training in addition to the adoption of the NIIMS management system.
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    And lastly, I recommend the integrated approach to control. This technique eliminates the pecking order that is often dysfunctional in emergency events and places emphasis on joint command practices with appropriate recognition of jurisdictional and governmental responsibilities that often overlap in a multi-agency activation.
    Secondly, use of technology. The Florida wildfires provided a very valuable look at how technology can benefit emergency responders and others in decision-making, as well as with risk reduction. Infrared technology to help identify lightning strikes and other hot spots, and high speed telephonic technology to assist in massive evacuation efforts are some examples of that technology during the 1998 Florida wildfires. More study and emphasis is required and should be placed in matching or developing available technology with emergency-related events. Simply put, we need to do more with the available technology to reduce the risk posed to our communities from emergencies.
    Thirdly, fires in Florida. Much time and effort has been placed in understanding western wildfires with the goal of risk reduction for those western communities. Until last year, little emphasis has been placed in investigating wildfire events and conditions in Florida. Florida is unique in that it is one of few states where green vegetation often burns and humid conditions have no effect on reducing flammability. To truly reduce the risk to Florida communities, we must fully understand these burn behaviors and predictors for Florida vegetation. I request that available funding and ongoing research priorities aid Florida in these most important efforts. This initiative is also critical to the creation of building and fire codes we find necessary to enhance the level of fire protection in our Florida communities.
    Response to wildfire and other emergencies. The Florida wildfires in 1998 resulted in the largest fire service buildup that our nation has ever seen. Few other large scale efforts compare to the human and equipment resources amassed for this disaster. Based on this now historical fact, and the scope of operations, the emergency build up and response went quite smoothly.
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    As in any disaster, mistakes were made, and from those mistakes many lessons were learned, plans were altered and many emergency responders were retrained or more trained.
    But regardless of how well we look at disasters such as this, we can do better. Therefore, emphasis must be placed on further reducing the time required to provide aid to those communities before and after a disaster. During times of disaster, as we know, minutes seem like hours and hours like days. This effort will require close monitoring of potential disasters and an enhanced system of notifying those emergency responders and other workers who may be needed to assist in such efforts. Additional energy should be focused on the continued refinement of systems and programs that streamline emergency operation levels at all government levels.
    Community and political support. I need not tell the Chairman, Ormond Beach is a very special place, one that has a true spirit of caring. During this time, many people provided emotional and financial support. At one point, we were supplying food to responders both in Ormond Beach, Volusia County and Flagler County. My point here is very simple, we need to integrate that into our overall plan to anticipate that support. That we have not done well.
    Let me end up by saying I appreciate the opportunity to provide comment. My written testimony has further explanation.
    Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Chief Baker.
    Chief Skinner.
    Mr. SKINNER. Good morning, Madam Chairwoman, distinguished members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for this opportunity to share our experience and progress with you. We commend your efforts to improve the nation's ability to mitigate and respond to wildfires in the urban interface. There is no doubt that without the assistance of state and Federal resources last summer, our city certainly would have lost numerous structures to fire and possibly lives as well. For this, we are forever in your debt.
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    Although we had already pledged our support to the county to respond whenever and wherever requested, we were not called to assist by ESF–4 at the County EOC between June 17 and June 30. However, we did answer several requests for direct mutual aid to neighboring cities during this period. We learned that other fire departments were volunteering to assist in remote areas on a daily basis, bypassing the County EOC and receiving assignments directly from field commanders. Once we began doing this, our department was able to take a more active role in assisting throughout the region.
    On the morning of July 1, as the fires approached our city, we made contact with the Blue Team Branch Director at their base camp and agreed to coordinate our efforts throughout the coming fire fight. That evening we established a unified command and were able to summon and manage resources from both the County EOC and the Blue Team, demonstrating the effectiveness of both ICS and the unified command technique. As the fires raged across LPGA and then east of I–95, these outside resources enabled us to save every threatened structure.
    The lack of interoperability among the various radio systems in use required that commanders from each agency maintain face-to-face communication to allow coordination of their units. As a result of this difficulty, our city has since joined the countywide GE-Ericsson 800 megahertz radio system. This has significantly improved our ability to operate in multi-jurisdictional incidents, although we still do not have seamless interoperability with the statewide Motorola system.
    Water drops were difficult to arrange because air support was under a different branch and our requests had to filter through a multi-layered command structure. Radio non-interoperability and the lack of global positioning capability also hampered our ability to direct them to the proper locations for water drops.
    As wildland firefighting became a daily activity for our urban structural firefighters, lack of adequate brush gear became problematic. We visited the logistics office at the Blue Team base camp and ordered full brush gear outfits for all of our personnel. These were delivered promptly and greatly improved firefighter safety and comfort. In our briefing is the drawing we were shown regarding payment for the gear—I refer to this document—and an indication that we would probably never receive a bill. One year later, we are grateful that we have not.
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    Evacuation of citizens from threatened areas was a problem due to confusion over the relevant authority to do this, and the use of the terms voluntary versus mandatory. There were also difficulties in determining the appropriate length of the evacuations and in getting this information out to the public.
    The lack of adoption and enforcement of an appropriate wildland urban interface standard such as NFPA 299 or the IFCI Urban-Wildland Interface Code, put our personnel in the dangerous position of having to place themselves between the wildfire and the threatened structures. In some areas, less than six feet separated dense forest from combustible structures. Their saves of these structures is nothing less than miraculous.
    As a direct result of these fires, we have implemented aggressive initiatives including:
    Public education regarding wildland-urban interface fire prevention
    Prescribed burning
    Research on adoption of a wildland-urban interface code within our city
    Increased training on ICS
    Additional brush vehicles and equipment, including global positioning
    Brush firefighting gear for all of our personnel
    Participation in wildfire task forces, area command and wildfire alert flags
    New emphasis on a countywide juvenile fire setter program.
    The wildfires of 1998 gave our community a unique opportunity to rise above its diverse competing interests and pull together to face and defeat a common enemy. We are a better and stronger community for it.
    Thank you for this opportunity to address our concerns regarding the wildfires of 1998.
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    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you. Thank each one of you.
    In the interest of time, I am just going to ask a couple of questions. I think each one of us will probably have some additional questions that we might want to submit for the record and we would appreciate it if you could answer them for the record for us. I know we are going to try to keep moving.
    First, I want to thank Mayor Hood and the Chief for their kind remarks. I think we need a handbook for members of Congress also when disasters occur, particularly after 5:00 p.m. and on weekends, because I found out the hard way too that it is really hard to get in touch with people and you do not know how to reach them and you are trying to in the middle of the night track them down. So I think we all could use that type of handbook for the local, state and Federal, because it was an interesting time.
    I had not even met Chief Baker at the time and we were on the phone at midnight and he is saying the fire is coming down the street and they are not getting the stuff to me. And we are talking to people in Washington, who are saying well it is going to take us two or three days to coordinate through this. And I said you do not understand, the fire is there now, you know, they have got to have it now.
    But we learned a lot. It was a learning period, and fortunately, because of the good work of all of you all, we were able to avoid much worse destruction than it could have been. But we need to make sure we do not have this lack of coordination and communication in the future.
    And one of the things that we noticed—and there was a lot of delays in getting some of the equipment down here and to get it used, and that is what a lot of our phone calls were about.
    Do you see that there is any better structure now for better coordination for future events on getting that here? Do you still see problems that occur in that regard? Mayor Hood or the Chiefs, any of you that might want to comment on that.
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    Mayor HOOD. Well, sitting on the Governor's Wildfire Task Force, I believe a great deal of that has been fleshed out and there is some methodologies that have been adopted that should make that better. It just seems to me ultimately we ought to have one great inventory of all the equipment that is available in one centralized place so that when we need wildfire suppression, you call the one person, the inventory is there, you have got auto dial and you get the equipment there and on the spot.
    But once again, you and I know the practical aspect is that people do not quite move the way you always want it to move, and it takes somebody usually to say get it done and have it done. Because you were the one that said—I kept getting the same old well, we will get it there in a couple of days, we are very stretched. And it was only when I got ahold of you that all of a sudden the stuff that was stretched and could not show up got shown up.
    Ms. FOWLER. I got the same answer until I worked my way up two or three people. Even members of Congress do not get it right away, you have to sort of work your way up the chain until you can get somebody who understands. I said turn on the TV, you can see what is happening down there, you know, we need it now.
    But we do need to do better. I am pleased though that you feel like if we implement what has been recommended by the Governor's Task Force, we should have it better.
    Mayor HOOD. It should help.
    Ms. FOWLER. And we have a list of the phone numbers now. We hope we will not need them again, but we do need to make that available so that everyone has those.
    Chief Skinner, you had mentioned and I think each one of you mentioned the problems with communication and the different radio frequencies, and Mayor Hood, I think your idea of down the road having some sort of Federal cache on this would be good.
    I understand there have been new radios purchased and that the Governor recently signed a bill I think that is going to permit this statewide. Do you think this is going to help address, Chief Baker, Chief Skinner, any of you that might want to address that?
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    Mr. SKINNER. If I could, please. Absolutely, anything that gives us common channels of communication and eliminates the patched together systems, would improve that. And under ICS, the command structure exists to make the communication work if you just have a way to talk to the people that are in your chain of command, even though they may not be from your organization.
    Ms. FOWLER. Did you want to add to that, Chief Baker?
    Mr. BAKER. Yes, Chairman Fowler, I have been encouraged. I came here in September of 1997, so I am fairly new to Florida, but when I came here, I was taught very quickly the lessons that this state learned from Hurricane Andrew. And all the accomplishments that have been made for more apt emergency response. I am seeing very similar efforts to what I had learned after the Florida wildfires. So I am encouraged.
    I am also of the understanding that there is some Federal funding right now being looked at. A common radio system across the nation. And I think combined with what we might have in Florida, and to make sure that they are compatible, could go a long way.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you. I just have one last question.
    Mr. Ryan, in your testimony, you testified that state and Federal resources sat on the side of the road while local resources had to be regrouped and deployed.
    Mr. RYAN. Right.
    Ms. FOWLER. Why were they not engaged, and is this going to be worked out for the future?
    Mr. RYAN. This seemed to be very simply a problem of having an additional level of coordination even within the unified command. You can put a unified command together where all of the incident action plans for what is to occur the following day are put together in advance and implemented. And that was done. But what we did not see in many cases was the ability to change those plans. Simply when you deployed those resources, they were there, they had a mission assigned under competent authority and that is what they were there to do. But the wildfire situation was so dynamic that they would pop up practically anywhere. And where they would pop up would be in an area that would perhaps immediately endanger structures or lives.
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    So you would have to take resources that were generally more the first responder or fire suppression that belonged to local government first because those were the resources that we felt we had more immediate control of, and deploy them to meet that immediate need, even though those other resources were very, very geographically close. Trying to run down and change the mission and reassign and redeploy those resources, it is a work of art even under the best circumstances, but it is something that with joint training and a unified command structure is one that I think will benefit all when we talk about wildland/urban interface fire scenario.
    Ms. FOWLER. And we can get a little bit better flexibility and quicker response.
    Mr. RYAN. Yes, ma'am.
    Ms. FOWLER. Because I know up in Duval County, I had heard from one of the landowners up there, said they had this fire for several days and it was 11:00 each morning before the teams got out there because they were in these briefings, regrouping, you know, as to what the new situation was. So if we could cut down that time.
    In the interest of time, I am going to submit my other questions for the record and I would like to now go to our distinguished Chair of the Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee, Ms. Chenoweth.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
    Mayor Hood, I was absolutely startled at your comment about the fact that FEMA does need to provide instruction books to local units of government as to who you call and what you do when you not only have an impending disaster, but one that is in your backyard. And the reason it startled me was three years ago, we had tremendous floods in Idaho and your comments mirrored exactly the same comments that I heard from our mayors and county commissioners in Idaho. Why do they not have an instruction book. Also an instruction book on how you submit costs for reimbursement. And because there is no instruction book, because these guidelines have not been implemented, it makes it very difficult for counties and local units of government to submit to FEMA for their costs that should be reimbursed.
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    So I took particular note of your comment there and I will be very interested in hearing from Messrs. Copenhaver and Suiter with regards to how FEMA is doing in this project, because I know that when FEMA came into existence during the Reagan administration, that was something that those who had a big hand in putting FEMA together, including Oliver North, Colonel Oliver North, was to make sure that the local units of government knew how to coordinate with FEMA and the Federal Government. So I very much appreciate your comment.
    Out of the five witnesses that we have here, absolutely to the man every single witness said that we still need to coordinate the communication systems and I will be interested in hearing testimony from Mr. Truesdale with regard to how that has been accomplished.
    So I am anxious, Madam Chairman, to work with you to push FEMA to make sure that these guidelines are coming out post-haste and I appreciate your comment, Mayor Hood.
    I also wanted to ask a question of Mr. Gentry, and this will be my only question. I would like to hear a little more detail with regard to lack of coordination and ability to use local units of government in firefighting because of a lack of a red card certification. In the recommendation, recommendation number 25 of the Governor's report, which I think is outstanding and I will be submitting this to the Forest Service also, to Mr. Dombeck, because it is an outstanding piece of work.
    But they recommended that we work to make sure that not only career but volunteer firefighters are able to be employed at a time like this. Well, if we have problems like we cannot accept this because of the red card certification, we cannot implement this recommendation.
    Exactly what happened?
    Mr. GENTRY. Well, there was a—you have to go back and you have to look at the overall scope. Early on, the local responders—if you pick up the phone and you dial 911, in Flagler County, it rings in our Sheriff's Department and if it is a fire, even brush fire, they dispatch the local fire department and then depending upon the conditions, also then Forestry as well. So the point is in many cases, the local volunteer fire departments are already out there working.
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    Let us look down the road, things continue to escalate. The volunteers are tired, they are worn out and in many cases with training requirement, there is no doubt the red card requirements or the firefighting requirements, it would be great to say that all of our volunteers would have all this training in all the aspects we are talking about. But obviously that will take time. The firefighters are out there working and it is not a day-to-day issue. Here in Florida, we work very well, Mike Kyper is our District Forester, all his folks, they work together great. And it was not necessarily—it is not a bad thing; in fact, the assistance was very much appreciated I am sure. The problem is some of the folks coming in, let us say from the western states that normally do not work side-by-side, our U.S. Forest Service, that are used working large tracts of land that there are not structural firefighters present.
    When the unified command would call in for assets, the only assets they wanted were those that met their normal requirements, such as the red cards. And that is fine, but we have to make sure that there is a utilization of those local folks, but more importantly that we can call in replenishments for those local folks. And that is something that in the unified command that has to be remembered, that they are operating in a local service district, that local fire department's district, they have to be fully included in that unified command. And for the reasons the other panelists pointed out as well.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. That is very good.
    In my closing comment—I would like to ask Mayor Hood just one more question, if I might.
    Mayor HOOD. Sure.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. You mentioned that there should be a centralized place for equipment with a good, accurate inventory. I would imagine it would be in each county rather than having the Federal Government have a centralized place for equipment and inventory.
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    Mayor HOOD. May I suggest that on a local small problem, yes, that would be sufficient. But what we had here was a situation where the resources of even the state were not sufficient. So what I am talking about is when you have major regional disasters like a hurricane, wildfire, in which even state resources are insufficient, there ought to be an automatic—and I am thinking through FEMA—where a local area can say all right we have now hit the threshold, and FEMA should have on inventory every single type of equipment, communication equipment, bulldozers, firetrucks, whatever are available, and you just Rolodex those things out with an automatic dial so that you get those things.
    The point is that it would be imprudent for us as a local community to try and have enough equipment, enough staff to deal with this kind of problem. No community could do it, frankly no state should really be in that situation. Just like Idaho should not have to—there is no way financially you could have enough equipment, enough personnel to deal with a once-every-ten-year type crisis. But we as a country ought to be able to have caches of that type of equipment that when it comes out in Florida or Louisiana or Kentucky, you automatically pull that equipment from wherever it is and it gets there within 24 or 48 hours. That would be a more cost-efficient way of handling the problem, in my opinion.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you. Congressman Boyd.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I have a couple of questions.
    I first want to start with Mayor Hood, and first of all, let me say that I read the testimony of all of you and I thought it was excellent. There were a lot of common themes, as you can imagine—unified command, training, communications and debris removal.
    I want to ask a couple of questions and start with you, Mayor Hood. Are we making any progress at the local level on acceptance of a prescribed burning policy that may help us in the future prevent—or certainly will lessen the impact of these kinds of disasters?
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    Mayor HOOD. Well, I mean we are doing more prescribed burning in this county than we did a year or two years ago, but you know, my experience has been we are still getting the same number of complaints almost from people going why am I having a hard time breathing, why am I having a hard time seeing where I am going. And I think that is just a gradual process where we must commit the resources to educate the public.
    I think until you deal with the liability issue though, you are always going to have a disincentive to a consistent, dedicated program of prescribed burning and that is a liability issue that needs to be dealt with statewide and federally.
    Mr. BOYD. So you would say that the liability issue is the major impediment to——
    Mayor HOOD. I think it would be one of the top two impediments because as I understand it, a lot of people are afraid to do prescribed burning because if you get smoke on a road and somebody gets hurt, obviously there is going to be a lawsuit. You have private landowners who, for them to take that kind of risk, they may not be able to or unwilling to do so.
    And so I think ultimately you need to take it—my attitude is the liability ought to be prescribed to the point of gross, willful, wanton disregard for property, but for a simple negligence or prescribed burning that is done by a certified prescribed burner, then you should have a certain immunity in that regard.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you. I have read that the unified command issue, that obviously we learned a lot in the 1998 fires and that in the 1999 fires, that we actually have begun to put in place a new unified command system.
    Would either Mr. Gentry or Mr. Ryan be willing to—have you had any experience with that and be willing to comment on it?
    Mr. RYAN. Certainly first would be at the local—within the local arena through the establishment of an area command which would provide for a grouping of all similar fire suppression resources under one unified command and area command, all within Volusia County, to make it a little bit easier to integrate should any state resources be provided, state command structure or state/Federal command structure. So I certainly see the lessons learned already being applied locally and certainly would like to add that on a state level, the few fire instances, thank God, that we have participated in this year, the few, we have seen a great increase in aviation resources immediately integrated into that suppression effort. So automatically that means that some planning mechanism is in place and will allow that type of mobilization of resources and deployment.
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    So I think that there are some improvements already made and with some training, I think those improvements will continue.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you very much. I know we are going to hear from Mr. Myers later on and he may be willing to expound some more on the lessons learned statewide and how we have improved that.
    Mr. Gentry, on the debris removal, I know that you and others have talked about the issue of debris removal. I know that FEMA provides a lot of money for a lot of things but I do not know that it provides for debris removal in any sort of disaster on private property. I know it does a lot of public property infrastructure type work, but yet you folks seem to think that that ought to be changed.
    Mr. GENTRY. Well, first off, under protective measures or health and safety, there was an allowance to go in and the tough part of this whole thing is there was within so many feet of roadways, within so many feet of a home. In other words, where if a dead tree falls, it could harm someone—some of those issues, then there were monies made available to do that.
    It is hard to explain to the general citizens, OK, so you cleared these lots, it is OK to go on private property and you did it here and here, you know, what is the difference. Because this was in the Palm Coast area, very much an urban interface area, so it was very hard to try to explain to the general public, still very hard to explain to the general public, what is the difference between a burned tree on one side of the line and a burned tree on the other side of the line. And obviously I am not trying to say they should just arbitrarily go on private property and take timber down, but just as some of the other discussions about what to do with the timber, quick removal, and some of the things that can be done. There needs to be more realization that this is not a city-by-city problem or county-by-county, it is fires—as this state continues to grow and there are fires in urban interfaces the problem is going to be faced over and over again. We need to just make sure we do not forget the lessons learned in Palm Coast in 1985 or 1998.
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    Mr. BOYD. Thank you very much. And thank you, Madam Chairman. I want to compliment the panel for not only what they did in the presentation here, but what they did for their community last year.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Congressman Boyd. Congressman Terry.
    Mr. TERRY. I will try and be succinct.
    First of all, Chairman Fowler and I share a similar background. I spent eight years on our City Council in Omaha, Nebraska and one of the things that we grappled with for about three years is our communication systems. We went to an 800 megahertz system, or at least we are in the process. We are probably about another two years away yet due to funding issues, so I know exactly what you mean.
    One area that probably the Federal Government can assist localities and counties and states is by trying to provide a uniform communications system, whether it be 800 or 900 or whatever it would be. So at least you have a few people in Congress that understand what it means at the local levels.
    Speaking of local levels, and as I mentioned in my first statement, what is the proper role of the Federal Government? You know, we have the Forestry Service and you have FEMA, but yet as you have pointed out—almost every one of you have pointed out—it is your local fire departments that respond first, that know the area, know the dynamics, and those are the ones that should be empowered. So as we talk about a unified command, Mr. Ryan, let me ask you—and anyone else can chip in and also communicate your opinion, but first of all, the first part of it is learning from the lessons of the past. What was the Federal Government's role in this firefighting process? Let us leave it with that part of it. Did they enhance your abilities, detract from your abilities to fight these fires? It sounds like the theme is that it became more confused with their involvement, at least in certain areas. There seem to be a lot of areas of confusion through miscommunication or at least non-communication. Also, speaking of a unified command, somebody still has to be in charge of that command. Who should that be and where should the Federal Government's role be in that.
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    It may be that the conclusion will be maybe the Federal Government's role is simply to get out of the way of the firefighting and just help on the front end by prevention or on the back end of cleaning up.
    What is your opinion?
    Mr. RYAN. Well, you give me plenty of room to answer. I think the first question is who should be in charge. Local government needs to be in charge simply because that is where the disaster is. Local government eventually becomes an applicant and gets involved in the financial reimbursement process and so forth, those are the residents, the community that economically and physically suffers, so local government needs to be the agency in charge.
    Where does the Federal Government fit in? The Federal Government fits in simply because, and thankfully because of the wealth of resources and the wealth of training and experience in a variety of disaster resource applications, and in this particular event, wildfires, I think the most significant items, resources that could have been provided were aviation resources and ground, bulldozer type assets that allowed the fire to be further—allowed the fire to be completely contained and eventually done away with.
    Were the Federal resources a hindrance or an asset? They were definitely an asset, make no bones about it. But when you have a party and you have the variety of agencies show up—I should not really say a party, but when you have a variety of people show up and try to describe this thing that they are participating in, each comes up with a different definition, a different feel of how it should go and so forth.
    The unified command is supposed to provide the structure that would allow a large event such as this to be combined and to be managed. And I think that structure is sound. As with everything, we learned a lot by participating in that unified command event. We need to learn from this and to continue to train to operate in that type of an environment. But make no bones about it, local government should be the one that ultimately says no, Federal Government, we do not want you to do mop up, we want you to do suppression and we want that to be done over here in conjunction with our unified plan.
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    Mr. TERRY. Great. Mr. Gentry.
    Mr. GENTRY. Just as a follow-up to that. One other thing I would like to say is that it is not a question of the help coming in. In fact, even necessarily the timing. We all have to have the realization that things coming from the west coast, it is going to take a pretty good bit of time to get it here.
    The problem is again in the local government's ability to be able to call for those resources early. I mean the financial—in Flagler County, there is absolutely no way that the budget will allow us to call in the resources that they were utilizing in Flagler County without the assistance of state and Federal Government. So, you know, the one thing again going back as a clarification, there is no doubt of the nature of the help of all the resources, but again, the local government has to have the ability early on when we see those conditions prevalent to go ahead and call these resources and not wait until we are already burning, because as you pointed out, it is far too late at that point, because by the time they get here, the fire will burn itself out or reach the ocean.
    And again, that is not trying to say that the resources are slow, it takes——
    Mr. TERRY. Recognizing the realities and then learning how to plan and deal with that.
    Mr. GENTRY. Exactly.
    Mr. TERRY. I appreciate that. Mr. Gentry, I think you made a comment that stuck out to me at least and that is in the planning part of this. While it may not be predictable when or where, but through history we know that we will have wildfires. Again, I think that probably reinforces a comment that you just made that that means that we need to share Federal resources and advice for planning up front.
    In Nebraska—you know, that is why I came here, to learn these things—in Nebraska we have tornadoes which are unpredictable. Although we will know they are there, they are not preventable. So everything has to be on the clean-up or in building houses. Then we have flooding and then the disaster is usually playing Florida State. So we have to deal with all three of those.
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    But I appreciate that comment. I thought that one sentence probably highlighted why we are here today.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you. Congresswoman Brown.
    Ms. BROWN. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    And having been on the ground during the operation of most of this, we probably need phone numbers of how to reach people after 12:00, between 12:00 and 5:00 a.m., because that is when we were talking on the phone many, many nights.
    And I want to commend this committee and thank you for how well that we worked together. And I also want to—I will later commend FEMA, because it was a partnership. And the purpose of this meeting is to talk about how we can do it better. We have learned from it, but I really think the coordination and how we work together and the fact that 36 states sent people in—I was concerned about, for example, when they came in, they could not fight certain participation programs because they did not have a certain card. I think somebody mentioned that.
    Can you expound on that? I mean how can we have some kind of universal training so that when people come in here, they can just come in and go to work?
    Mr. GENTRY. Well that obviously I think locally, the local fire departments are working on those issues, working with the state, the state has been very helpful in making these trainings available. But again, it is no different if firefighters from the east coast—as I believe Chief Baker pointed out, things that are green here burn, whereas if you are from California—the point is there are differences and really what we are trying to point out there is that when folks come in, we have got to make sure that a good briefing is held on what is played locally.
    As Mr. Ryan was pointing out, he feels that the locals should be in charge. Well with that then, we have to provide the briefing to these other folks that this is how we do business here in Florida. And it may be different than Nebraska or California. But there are reasons we do what we do and we work side-by-side day in and day out, so we cannot forget the local firefighters in the unified command. It has to represent local, state and Federal Governments.
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    Ms. BROWN. OK, but what about this card?
    Mr. GENTRY. You are talking about a training level for firefighters. It is just like there is a certification for structural firefighters, there is a certification for wildland firefighters. And there was a reluctance—and it was not across the board, but obviously some of the command procedures say if you are going to go in and fight the fires, that you should have been carrying what is termed a red card. And it is saying that you have a certain certification. And really what I am saying is day in/day out, the local volunteer firefighter works standing next to someone with Forestry and there is not really a discussion about, you know, what is the certification levels. They are operating in the local fire department's response district, they are going to respond to those fires. So we should potentially make sure if this ever happens again, that we point out and clarify to commanders who come in or people who are going to hold positions who come in from the outside, that these are things that happen here day in and day out, that it is OK.
    Ms. BROWN. And the other thing was the communication, because sometimes I saw firemen in all their gear and they would have four or five walkie talkies or radios on them. Did we clear up that problem? I mean because that was a problem.
    Mayor HOOD. If I may speak to that, because I really think if we are saying that 800 megahertz or 900 megahertz is going to solve the problem, I do not think it ever will, because I do not think by the time you put 800 megahertz throughout this country will be another 20–30 years down the road and there will be a new technology that will be coming down. And that is why to me, even if the State of Florida finally gets this 800 megahertz all done, the fact is that when you bring in North Carolina units in here, they are not—they may not have 800 megahertz because they are from a community that does not have that. And that is why it seems to me we as a country ought to have a cache of some particular equipment so you do not have firefighters with six different walkie talkies, proprietary.
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    And the other problem with 800 megahertz is there are two proprietary systems. You have got Ericsson and you have got Motorola. So you may have 800 megahertz and they cannot talk to each other because they are on different proprietary systems. So that is why I think it is important that you get one system with sufficient capacity that it can handle any size disaster.
    Ms. BROWN. Finally, I just want to say again that I think you all did a yeoman's job and also working together in coordination between the Governor's office, the local and Federal Government, and I want to thank you.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Madam Chairman.
    Ms. FOWLER. Yes.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. With your indulgence, I would just like to say, Chief, this is one of the most dramatic documents to illustrate a point that I have ever seen. All five of you commented on communication and coordination and the need for centralized planning or centralized command, not planning—centralized command. And I just want to comment that this really got our attention. Thank you.
    Mr. SKINNER. You are welcome.
    Ms. FOWLER. And I think, Mr. Boyd, you had one short question?
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    This morning, we had a little drive-through tour and our tour guide was Benjy from the Road and Bridge Department, I think. And you are the only member here from Flagler County on the panel. He talked about an ordinance in which you all were able to do something locally and get the trees out, you actually salvaged some timber.
    Would you explain how you went about that and did that locally without causing a firestorm?
    Mr. GENTRY. Well, I do not know that it was successful in that effort. There are actually two programs that you are talking about. One was to go in and get the timber out quickly so that there is a commercial value. Use that money that was then put in place to do some reforestation projects afterwards. So that is one.
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    The second part is a mitigation effort that is still—the details are still being worked out, a local ordinance is being passed. Say, for example, I build a house and the lots on either side of me are non-developed, but owned by someone. Well, you know, they may be too close for Forestry to come in and do prescribed burns because they are too close to existing structures, so they are looking at passing or working on a local ordinance that would force the lot owner to make sure that vegetation level is kept down, working with Forestry when they can do prescribed burns or allowing permission for them to come in if it literally has to be cut with bushhogs.
    But the point is to try to keep the mitigation effort in place so that we do not repeat those lessons learned with the vegetation.
    Mr. BOYD. And this was done on private—this was an ordinance put in place for private property?
    Mr. GENTRY. Correct.
    Mr. BOYD. I asked that question and I hope that the United States Forest Service people heard the question because I am going to ask the same question about their reaction time and being able to do the same kind of thing that you guys did under property that was not even under your—it was not city-owned property or community-owned property, it was privately-owned property and you had to pass an ordinance and get it done, and you had the support of the community to do that.
    Mr. GENTRY. And if I could also clarify, also working with Division of Forestry, who has been instrumental in this effort as well. So I mean it was a collective effort.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you very much.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you. I and other members do have some additional questions that we will submit to you in writing and we will include your responses in the record, in the interest of time.
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    If there are no further oral questions now, I really want to thank every member of this panel because I know how hard you worked and we really—as you said, everybody pulled together, and even in the toughest of times, everybody was working together and trying to get it done and do their best. And we all learned a lot from it and that is why we are here, to try to help as we learn and see where we can help from our level, from the Federal level, to get you those resources and help that you need.
    Hopefully it will never happen again, but looking at the record of 1999, it does not look good. I was glad to see a little rain today and maybe we will be getting some more hopefully. We do not complain about rain around here any more, we are just glad to get it.
    But the information and all the ideas you have shared with us have been very useful and just know we are going to put them to good use as we do our work this year. So thank you again for being with us.
    The Chair now calls the witnesses for the second panel. I want to welcome this panel here with us today. We have Mr. Earl Peterson, Director of the Florida Division of Forestry; Joe Myers, who is the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management; Chief Tom Harmer of Titusville, Florida Fire & Emergency Services, who is not I think with us, has not made it; Chief Larry Mathieson of the Ormond Beach Police Department and Jack Vogel representing the Florida Forestry Association.
    Thank you so much for being with us today. Before I administer the oath to this panel, let me again say that we do have copies of Committee rules available and it is your right to be advised by counsel. And now if you could please stand and raise your right hands.
    [Witnesses sworn.]
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, please be seated.
    We ask, as I did for the prior panel, that if you could summarize your testimony in five minutes or less, and without objection your full written statements will be included in the record. We will withhold all our questions until all panel members have testified. And those little lights that you see that come on up there, that green light stays on for about four and a half minutes I think, then the yellow and then the red comes on at five, so that is what all that is about up in the front.
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    Our first witness is Mr. Earl Peterson. Mr. Peterson, thank you so much for being with us and you can proceed as you see fit.

    Mr. PETERSON. Madam Chairman, it is my pleasure to be here. I am Director of the Florida Division of Forestry and we have statutory responsibility for statewide wildfire protection in Florida. We are sort of the inter-link I guess between the locals and the feds.
    1998 was indeed a challenge. I might say that I think everyone, the locals, the state agencies and the Federal agencies did a good job under the circumstances. Is there room for improvement? You bet there is. Did we all learn? Indeed we did.
    We have to remember that we had to come together—there were some climatic conditions there that brought low humidity, heavy fuel laden areas, high drought indices all came together in a peculiar way at a unique time. But what happened then was that we did come together, we did make a concerted effort to deal with a catastrophic situation.
    Resource ordering is a key component, to match the right resource with the need. It is not a one size fits all. I think there is where our friends in the Federal agencies began to find a little bit of a disparity with what we need in Florida. It does no good to bring bulldozers to Florida if they are not low ground pressure; it does no good to fly in personnel who are not trained in Florida fuels. Unfortunately through the years we have practiced a one size fits all policy, which seems to be dominated by the Federal scene—the western scene. The western area does not have a monopoly on catastrophic fires, as we saw last year. There needs to be a more regionalized approach to wildfire fighting, there needs to be a more regionalized assessment of the fuels and the training that attaches to that. So I think there is a great need for improvement there between the Federal and the state agencies.
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    Also, the process of ordering resources is critically important that the right resource be ordered for a particular need. And I think that through the compacts between the forestry agencies, I think between the Federal ordering system—bearing in mind that we need to provide those resources suited for particular geographic areas, particular fuels, particular terrains is very, very critical. I think each level of government should provide adequate resources to meet the norms of wildfire incidents. Certainly what we had last year was not normal, we had to depend on our neighbors at all levels. We did access resources from the southeastern United States through the compact, we did access them through the Federal ordering system. And without that, we could not have accomplished the success that we did.
    Communications, time and time again has been mentioned, and we cannot ignore that. Both in our Division of Forestry critique and the Governor's committee, the incompatibility of communications was indeed a difficult and challenging area. We are doing our part in the Division of Forestry, we are revamping our communications systems.
    But I would also hasten to say that when we talk about communications, we are not just talking about the hardware, we are talking about the interpersonal communications between the different levels of government on an ongoing basis through training, through common communications day to day, so that they stay in touch, so that they plan together, they are each up to speed on what the other needs and what we are doing under certain circumstances.
    But then there is the hardware. You hear much talk about 800 megahertz—800 megahertz is a very expensive system. Also, in areas where we operate it statewide, it is not very effective. So what we need is programmable radios that can be accessed by any agency. We also need additional frequencies at times. So you have got the hardware component of the communications issue and you also have the interpersonal relationships between the agencies which should be ongoing.
    Now the Fire Marshal's office has purchased portable radios to put in a cache recently. The U.S. Forest Service is making available to us about 200 hand-held radios which we refurbished and they will be programmable, they will go into the cache. And of course, as I said earlier, we are redoing our entire communications system within the Division of Forestry over a three to four year period.
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    Training is another critical issue that has been mentioned here by each speaker this morning. ICS training is an absolute necessity, both to train and to use it. Training in prescribed fire, certified burners—very big issues with the Division of Forestry in Florida. We are a very training-oriented agency and we would like to expand that and will expand that with the authority that the legislature gave us last session, to the local agencies, to the private sector, so that we can provide training across agency lines.
    It is critically important that no one come to a fire that is not adequately trained and adequately protected with personal protection equipment. So training is key to our success and it is high on our priority and we will do our part to push it to the next level.
    Mitigation, again mentioned several times here this morning. We have to expand the use of prescribed fire. We have to do it in order to reduce the fuels. Florida has a very unique system and we have to keep the fuels down, through a local ordinance we have to provide defensible space, through building codes we have to increase our protection for our homes because as you probably saw on your tour this morning, it is just not a pleasant situation, given our climate, given our fuels. We have to have responsibility at all levels, including the local level.
    Cost containment is a critical issue. How can we do this mammoth job with some responsible accountability for the cost? I am Chairman of the National Association of State Foresters Forest Protection Committee and I have three subcommittees that are in place now. One is cost containment. The U.S. Forest Service will be working with us on that. It is imperative that we figure how to cut costs without compromising effectiveness or safety. Also, how we can have a model state wildfire management plan that will mesh with and complement the Federal. And also we have a subcommittee that is working with FEMA as they work through the process of revising their regulations with respect to suppression costs.
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    And I would like to say that FEMA is a relatively new experience for them in wildfire. They have done good, they have been flexible. They opened dialogue with the wildfire agencies and they want to do their part to make it successful, as does my friend on the right here, Joe Myers at the state level.
    Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Peterson.
    Mr. Myers.
    Mr. MYERS. Good afternoon. And let me say I am honored to appear before the Committee today.
    As you stated earlier, the 1998 fire season was the worst in history. We have fires every year in this state, but the significant fact or the difference was that we had these wildland fires, as you saw today, interfacing into the urban area or intruding into that area. So there was a lot of dynamics that came out of that last year.
    First of all, we had our regular forest people, Earl's people and the U.S. Forest Service now interfacing with the structural firefighters. We had our non-traditional firefighters, the National Guard and others, working out of our emergency operations center to where we had to make that the central command for the overall operations. So there was a lot of new things that had to come out of that. And of course obviously the scope of this thing goes beyond tradition, it became not just a fire, but it became a disaster. And I think when you look at those statistics, you see that 100,000 people evacuating, the entire county of Flagler, and you look at the overall cost of just the response alone was over $100 million. These are not normal.
    So realizing we needed to improve our overall fire strategy, then-Governor Chiles put together a committee which has been alluded to, to evaluate the effectiveness of Florida's current wildfire mitigation preparedness response and recovery programs. The 90 recommendations which each of you have a copy, have identified areas in which we can make improvements and we are making those improvements, including the needs to fix some of the current Federal system fire management. I think there are about five or six of those in that report.
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    The report was timely, obviously. This year already, right after it was disseminated, we went into this year's fire season and our emergency operations center was activated for over 60 some days this year. The statistics, again over 360,000 acres have burned, but I think the difference this year is over 1100 homes have been saved in this state. Tremendous work by Earl Peterson's people and the U.S. Forest Service to get in there to do the quick response, and I think there is a better understanding at the local and state levels of how a fire is like a disaster. I know that personally since I have been in Florida, I have done 170 public official conferences working with local officials and walking them through the process on other natural disasters and we have incorporated fire into that, on who to call and how those procedures work.
    Having gone through this type of disaster twice in a year, it has come to our conclusion we need to fix the system that is outdated and in need of modernization. Our current system of fire suppression was designed to fight fires in the western states that have vast open space with little urban interface; whereas, our fires in Florida, as you saw today, do interface. And I can go back to when I was the Director in North Carolina, the very first fire suppression I ever asked for was in 1985 and 1986. And I got the old rule book out and it said, sure enough in the book, it says this is designed for western states only. So I believe the current fire suppression program, codified as Section 420 of the Stafford Act, is in need of major overhauling. That is especially true when we believe that there is going to be an increased intensity of wildfires across the nation, especially in the eastern part of this country.
    So I am here today to support the idea of the creation of a new program that pulls aspects of the Presidential disaster program and parts of the fire suppression program together to form a responsive program of total fire management and control.
    The current fire suppression program only deals with threats, fire as a threat and when it encroaches in an urban/wildlands interface. The current system does not recognize fire as a disaster. I believe it must change if we are to have meaningful improvements in our current system. The consequences of fire are no different than any other type of disaster. People are isolated and displaced and their infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.
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    So we need a system in place that deals with fire response recovery and also, as mentioned earlier, mitigation.
    There must be a unified command set up whenever there is a fire disaster, that has to include the major players—the Federal level, obviously that is FEMA and U.S. Forest Service. And at the state we have done that with the Department of Forestry and our volunteer firefighters through the Florida Fire Chiefs, our Fire Marshal's Office and Emergency Management. You have got to know your roles and responsibilities. I think that was one of the major difficulties we faced in 1998. We have changed that this year and been able to come up with some unified procedures. And I do not think this is how it is done nationwide and I think maybe attachment number 4 is a good model that other people could use across this country.
    Another problem we faced was trying to secure proper Federal assistance to meet the fire management of our communities and the fire disaster victims. You know, we really appreciate what we got from FEMA and the U.S. Forest Service. Without them, we could not have met the needs of the victims. But the process we were forced to use was cumbersome and confusing and almost required us to be an expert in the catalog of Federal domestic assistance programs. We had to go with about eight different programs last year and we had to get programs just to take care of the firefighters who were affected in their own local communities and then another program to take care of those that were mutual aid coming in. We could not get debris, we had to get direct Federal assistance. We treat mutual aid different, we only pay for the staging of the Federal programs, we do not pay for those coming in through Earl's programs or through the other states like we do hurricanes.
    We also need to make sure that we eliminate this floor cost. We should treat—no other disaster has a floor cost and I think that we need to change that process.
    And also we need to have hazard mitigation. With the major emphasis of FEMA being on mitigation, I cannot understand why we are not doing the prevention because fire suppression is not eligible or in emergency declarations, mitigation is not eligible.
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    And last, I think we have got to look at the long term consequences of fires because there are long term consequences on the economy of the community. And so there are other Federal programs out there I think with more flexibility and increased funding that we could put together a complete package. Because the fire was only a symptom of a drought.
    Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Myers.
    Chief Mathieson.
    Mr. MATHIESON. Good afternoon. First of all, thanks to the Subcommittee and the Co-Chairs for their interest in this vital topic. It is certainly an honor to be invited to participate here today and share some thoughts with you.
    The fire storms of 1998 were certainly an unprecedented event for the State of Florida and the City of Ormond Beach. In reviewing the actions that were taken within the city, the most important element of the operation from our point of view was the recognition from the outset that this needed to be a team effort in every respect. Each of the departments had a very important role to play within the context of the city's emergency response plan and it was noted from the beginning of the operation that the managers and employees from every city organization needed to be proactive and complete in order for us to be successful if those events were going to affect us.
    In the weeks leading up to the fire storms in the city, the city staff was engaged in proactive planning. And I think that has been a theme that has been talked about and been mentioned by a number of people here today. Ultimately, it is my view that this advanced planning is key to success in any type of operation of an emergency nature.
    In anticipation of the potential impact that the fires would have, each city agency, as I mentioned, began and sat together to talk about the plans associated with this event. Each department head was charged by the City Manager, Eugene Miller, with reviewing the city-wide emergency response plan and determining what actions would be taken and what additional resources might be needed, both at the state, local and possibly national level.
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    The city plan was made more specific by assigning each of the components to a department head who would be responsible for the execution of those plans. It would be my recommendation that all local governments engage in a multi-agency proactive planning process which anticipates resource needs in advance of an event, minimally on an annual basis. That way, they get an opportunity to practice what they have put into writing.
    Very important—the next category I am going to talk about is interagency cooperation and the importance of mutual aid agreements. In the days which followed the initial fire storm on July 1, police resources from our area were taxed to the maximum. We knew that the key element to our success would be a collective mutual aid effort and the willingness of the other agencies involved that are part of that mutual aid agreement to respond quickly and to do whatever was necessary to cooperate, without regard to jurisdictional issues. We felt that was a very important consideration.
    Supervisors from other agencies reported to our command post and were given one of our radios to facilitate communication. That was an issue that has been brought up by several persons that have testified already. Each agency then reported to the command post on a given day with a given mission, such as Hunter's Ridge for security, and any special details related to the mission, they were instructed to execute those tasks.
    In many ways, this event was an illustration of how mutual aid really should work in many regards. This is not to say there were no problems. However, when issues arose, there was a willingness to work together and to find an immediate solution. And again, I feel that was a very important component.
    Something that has been mentioned previously that I thought was critically important to us in 1998 was the importance of technology. The City used technology donated—just as a couple of examples—donated technology by a local company by the name of Marketability to create an automated telephone notification system that was able to notify over 700 residents of the Hunter's Ridge and Breakaway Trails subdivisions that evacuation was required as the fires approached. With over 800 outgoing lines at their facility at a business park in Ormond Beach, these notifications were accomplished by computer in just over three minutes.
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    Before, during and after the storms, the progress of the fires was monitored by infrared satellite and then downloaded to a website that we were able to access. This, coupled with reports from the U.S. Forestry Service and the U.S. Weather Service gave us continuous updates concerning the progress of the firestorms. I certainly would recommend that the Federal Government take a look at additional funding through the COPS process and through emergency management for innovative and expanded use of technology. I can envision a time—as was mentioned by Mayor Hood a little while ago, concerning emergency notifications, I can envision a time, and I believe that technology already exists where we could initiate a contact through a laptop computer and then through a website to activate a number of emergency notifications regardless of where the jurisdictions may be.
    Certainly the political support that we received through your office, Chairman Fowler, through Mayor Hood, through a lot of other people in the area who were participating members of this Committee, in order to get things rolling and bypass some of the bureaucratic processes that we have to deal with as emergency managers, that was very important.
    You have also already touched on the issue of community involvement. And not only was it critical here in Ormond Beach and uplifting in that sense, but I think it is a resource that we need to plan for, for the future, as we look at the whole issue of emergency and event management, and plan for the participation of community groups and what resources they can bring to the table because we had a lot of things that we could not and did not, probably were not able to anticipate. But all we had to do was put the word out through the news media that we needed water or we needed GatorAde or we needed socks or whatever the case may be, and people would show up with those supplies by the trunkload.
    The media certainly was our partner throughout the event. They cooperated with us fully and we feel, in the sense of emergency management, you have got to set up media centers to be able to do your briefings and get the word out to the community. And they were a very valuable resource in being able to inform the community about what we were doing, what the progress of the firestorms was, how it was affecting their neighborhoods, evacuation information and so forth. They were a very, very critical resource.
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    For the future—the firestorms of 1998 pointed out the need for continued emphasis on mutual aid efforts and specifically interagency training. In situation after situation, we saw the need for all of us to be working from the same sheet of music and that has already been talked about.
    Training for our staff in positions of command should be a priority so that we can continue to develop leaders and emergency managers for tomorrow. There is no substitute for experience in these kinds of situations.
    The more frequent the exposure to emergency management issues, the better our staffs will perform when the situation demands.
    Lastly, a thank you to the State of Florida, the United States government and the citizens of our community and our state. Any success we experienced was achieved in great measure through the cooperation and contributions of everyone concerned.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Chief Mathieson.
    Mr. Vogel.
    Mr. VOGEL. Thank you, Chairman Fowler. My name is Jack Vogel, I am a private forest land management consultant, here representing the Florida Forestry Association today. The association is made up of all the forestry interests in the state of Florida, both public and private.
    We are concerned about timber and the timber resources in the state of Florida. And I am not here today to ask you for any money or really anything other than to bring some Congressional focus on the U.S. Forest Service and specifically on the slow response time in the post-fire salvage operations. We would like to use the Osceola National Forest as a case study in that slow response to salvaging of a very valuable resource that we in the state of Florida consider to be part of the public domain and one that we wish to cherish and manage responsibly.
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    The Oak Head fire started on June 3, 1998, in the Osceola National Forest, which is in the Lake City area, and burned for six weeks, consuming approximately 20,000 acres of some of the finest pine timber resources that exist in the southeastern United States. Because of administrative encumbrances, the U.S. Forest Service has to go through an environmental assessment as dictated by the National Environmental Policy Act. The environmental assessment took 30 days to conduct, which of course required them to bring in professionals from all over the country to assess whether the timber was dead or not following the fire. And of course, these fires were disastrous and it was pretty much obvious that there was a salvage operation necessary.
    After the environmental assessment is conducted, there is a 30-day comment period that has to go into effect, and then following that, unless you get a relief from the 45-day appeal period—well fortunately, the Osceola National Forest people and people in the state of Florida for the Forest Service got a relief from the 45-day appeal period. So after the assessment, after the comment period, they were able to go ahead and begin to conduct their salvage sale.
    The U.S. Forest Service also has to go through an enormous process of preparing a forest sale for salvage. That is actually going out and marking and tallying most of the trees that have to be cut following the burn. I personally visited the burn site and these fires were disastrous, the timber was dead.
    There should be some methods that would allow for statistical sampling to enable people to quickly get out there and evaluate the fire damage, put the sale up and get the wood moved.
    This wood was really very, very fine saw timber and pole timber. As I said, it is some of the best grown in the United States. And it had the ability to move into the market very quickly and still maintain most of its value.
    All of us that were involved in the post-fire recovery knew that we had about four months to remove the timber before the deterioration started. With the humid environment we have in Florida, the bark beetles—you have about four months past the fire, the bark starts slipping and the value of your timber is gone, certainly degraded down to pulpwood and in some cases not even valuable for pulpwood.
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    The U.S. Forest Service, because of their encumbrances and because of the administrative burdens that are placed on them, took three and a half months just before they took the first salvage sale offered. There has got to be a better way of doing that.
    The second thing of concern to us was the amount of salvage that was allowed on the Osceola National Forest Oak Head fire.
    There was approximately 20,000 acres burned, and I am not going to sit here and tell you that all 20,000 acres of that was completely destroyed, they were not. There were some areas out there that could probably have recovered after the fire. But of the 20,000 acres burned, 4000 acres were in a wilderness area, which of course Congress has already dictated that you cannot salvage in a wilderness area. We had another almost 8000 acres that were declared unharvestable because they were in wetlands or transitional areas around wetlands. And that left about 8000 acres of uplands that could be harvested.
    It was determined that the salvage and sales on the Osceola National Forest Oak Head fire would be conducted on only 1900 acres of the 20,000 acres that were burned. On that 1900 acres, there was probably about $2.5 million worth of timber that would have been moved into the market prior to the fire, that would have been its green value. The Forest Service put this timber up for sale three and a half months after the fires and generated $400,000 in salvage value after it cost them approximately $100,000 to conduct the sale.
    We in the forest community in Florida find that these forested resources that the U.S. Forest Service so ably managed for the first 70 years of this century and taken lands that were really cut over and abused and made them into some of the most beautiful forest in the southeastern United States, to now enter into a philosophy where commodity production in the multiple use management really is not the watch word any more, and to let these forest continue to deteriorate, let these burned areas stand as sentinels to unrealistic approaches to forest land management is just not appropriate. These forest resources are valuable to the people of the state of Florida, they are valuable to the local communities because the communities receive revenue from the sale of forest products. There has to be a better way of doing this.
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    The Forest Service has under its employ some of the most dedicated and talented forest resource professionals in the world. They ought to be left to manage their resources. The oversight from Washington, from the regional offices that encumber the professionals and the district rangers on these forest is just untenable. They need to be allowed to create a healthy forest and forests that can meet all the objectives we have for our forest, both social, economic and environmental. They have the ability to do it if Congress would just unencumber them and let them get on with their task.
    I think it is time, and Congresswoman Chenoweth, I know that this is an issue that you really, really feel close to. I think with these disasters—and there are other case studies around the country as well. You can go to the Arapahoe National Forest in Steamboat Spring, Colorado and look at a 20,000 blowdown that occurred last year. And the same encumbrances are there for them that they are here in Florida with our wildfires. The opportunities are there to make a difference but it is going to take Congressional action to do it.
    Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Vogel. I want to thank each one of you and I just have a couple of questions and I will submit the rest of mine for the record.
    Mr. Myers, in reviewing the fire suppression grant process as currently written, what changes would you recommend that would make the most significant impact on that process, streamlining it so that the assistance that is needed from the Federal Government can be activated sooner for those citizens that are in immediate need during and immediately after a wildfire occurs?
    Mr. MYERS. As I stated, I think we can take some of the best parts from the fire suppression program and some of the changes FEMA has made this year, and also take our Presidential disaster program, and combine things.
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    Ms. FOWLER. This is what you were referring to as your new fire management program?
    Mr. MYERS. Right, call it a Fire Management and Control Act. Treat it as a disaster, not just as a fire, because I think that is what we have here. Make it similar, as I said, to a Presidential disaster declaration where—the problem we have had is when you start getting this interface into a disaster, all the local government costs are not eligible. What we faced last year was, number one, the fire suppression covered mutual aid communities coming in say to Jacksonville to fight a fire, but it did not cover the Jacksonville Fire Departments who were actually fighting their fire. So we then had to go to FEMA to get a Presidential disaster declaration, Category B, protective measures, to cover those. And then this year, we had to do the emergency declaration to get Category B, which does not give you a mitigation.
    Now on our resources, obviously we try to look locally and then within the state, but there are three major areas to go for resources outside the state. One, Forestry works through U.S. Forestry. Now that is eligible for staging and so forth. But if Mr Peterson uses his southern compact and goes to North Carolina maybe to get something cheaper or more economical, quicker, it is not eligible for staging. Or in turn, we use our National Guard to go to Georgia or something across the line, it is not treated the same way as U.S. Forest Service. So the mutual aid, the interface to look at it as a disaster because you have got your police, you have got your public works. These people are all involved in a disaster and we should treat it that way.
    I think the floor cost—no other program has a floor cost. If we look at it like a Presidential disaster, we should eliminate this floor cost and just actually be able to look at that threat, meet the basic criteria.
    And then we should look at the mitigation program as we do from our tornadoes, traditional natural disasters, because last year when we got the Presidential disaster, it generated mitigation funds but this year, we got the emergency declaration, so we do not get any mitigation funds.
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    So there was about eight different programs we had to go through last year and I think it could be streamlined to fit a disaster.
    Ms. FOWLER. We need to cut out some of the paperwork. Thank you.
    Mr. Peterson, I have a couple of questions. One, you mentioned in your testimony about the redoing of our whole communications system and that it was going to take the Florida Division of Forestry three to four years to redo the communications system.
    I am a little worried since already in 1999, we have got more fires in this half of 1999 than we had in all of 1998, and communication is one of our major problems. Why is it taking three to four years to redo it?
    Mr. PETERSON. Well, I think what I intended to say there was that it is incrementally, and we are into the third year of that now.
    Ms. FOWLER. Oh, OK, I feel much better.
    Mr. PETERSON. We started before the fires really, so we are getting there.
    Ms. FOWLER. OK good. So you are over halfway through. Good. Thank you, that makes me feel better.
    Another question I have is on the super scooper, which I know has been somewhat controversial. For those of you who do not know what the super scooper is, this is a large aircraft that is used as an aerial firefighter in other parts of the country, primarily. And they deliver 22,000 gallons of extinguisher per hour as opposed to a helicopter, which at the most can deliver 3400 gallons per hour on a fire. The super scooper that is based in North Carolina was brought down here and was used during the 1998 fire. Was that successful? If it was not, should the resource have been put toward some other aircraft, and do you support or not support the use of these aircraft in Florida?
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    Mr. PETERSON. The super scooper is an effective asset, it is a tool in the tool box of wildfire fighting agencies. It is not a panacea, it is not a utopia. It is cost-prohibitive to own by the state. They have a very intensive marketing, lobbying effort that has been going on for years and years. I have a proposal on my desk for $25 million over a five year period—give me $25 million and I will provide you far more fire protection than you can get with one single aircraft.
    We prefer, as far as ownership goes, to use helicopters.
    Ms. FOWLER. I am not talking about ownership, I am just talking actually——
    Mr. PETERSON. I am going to get to that. But as far as ownership goes. Now as we bring it in under contract or under the compact and use it, it is still expensive, but we would do that, we did do that and its availability, if it was cost-effective, we would do it again. But it has its purpose.
    Another thing I would remind you that Florida, being a very recreation oriented state, has a lot of people on the lakes and streams, so you have got to be careful, you have got to have on-site security when you are out there dipping water in the lakes to be sure there are no fishermen out there—those types of things.
    We would prefer to use it in the mix of aerial assets, along with other tankers, along with helicopters. But it is very expensive. North Carolina has a CL–215 which is 29 years old and I think they paid $4 million for it. In California they have some under lease, I do not think you will see them buying them, I do not know that they decided to renew the leases. So it is a very impressive piece of equipment to be at work. But it does not provide that much——
    Ms. FOWLER. Did it work here? I mean did it help——
    Mr. PETERSON. Oh, it works, it works, as do other tankers and helicopters. It works, clearly it works.
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    Ms. FOWLER. Does the National Guard support use of the super scooper?
    Mr. PETERSON. I have never had that discussion with them.
    Ms. FOWLER. Because I know we were using their helicopters.
    Mr. PETERSON. Well, we used their helicopters. We furnish the buckets and we furnish the training and they do a great job. Our objective is to have a helicopter within 45 minutes of a fire and with what the legislature gave us this year, we will do that.
    Ms. FOWLER. I remember the super scooper sat and could not be used for several days because the pilots were from Canada and we had to go through all this rigmarole with the Federal Government again to get them to let the Canadian pilots fly the plane. Unbelievable.
    Mr. PETERSON. There is an enormous problem. North Carolina still does not have on staff full time the pilots for that. The operational cost, the complications of it, the problem they have getting the pilots through the immigration requirements is a nightmare that I would like to avoid.
    Ms. FOWLER. Well, we need to find a way to streamline it so when there is a fire going on and you need to get as much water and extinguish the fire——
    Mr. PETERSON. We call on everyone, we call everyone then.
    Ms. FOWLER. —I do not worry about who is flying that plane as long as they are qualified and get that water on there and extinguish it, that is what we need to do.
    Mr. PETERSON. That is right.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you. Chairman Chenoweth.
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    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    I wanted to ask Mr. Vogel, why is it that you think the State of Florida performs so much more efficiently in their salvage operations than the Forest Service?
    Mr. VOGEL. Well, the Division of Forestry, which is our land management agency in Florida, which of course Mr. Peterson is the Director, really are not saddled with those administrative encumbrances that the Federal Government puts on the U.S. Forest Service. Earl can make the decisions.
    The State of Florida had two fires, one on the Tiger Bay Forest and one on the Lake George Forest that burned the same amount of land, a little bit more than 20,000 acres. They had their salvage sales going in two weeks after the fires went out, had nine salvage sales and removed $2.5 million off of those lands. They had the same careful stewardship ethic that the U.S. Forest Service should have. It is appropriate for public agencies to have a different management style and different ethic than us private landowners. But even with that, I had calls from the Division of Forestry people immediately after the fires to my office asking me prices, salvage operators, all those things. I mean the fires had not even cooled and they were in there doing their job and they did it very well. And they have their forests harvested and ready to replant. They just did really a terrific job and we are very proud of them.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. It is very interesting, the 1900 acres that were put up for salvage out of 20,000, about nine percent. What is the status of those sales? It is startling, Mr. Vogel, that the returns would be $400,000 and the cost $100,000. That certainly does help with our National Forest Fund, which is bankrupt right now.
    Mr. VOGEL. The Forest Service, and this is through years of tried and true methods of doing timber sales, on saw timber sales, they literally go out and mark and tally every tree. On this fire, I think they went out and marked and tallied every tree and they also marked C trees within the fire damage area, which of course were probably dead when they were marked, but there are other reasons for marking C trees, there are cavity needs for nesting birds and things like that.
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    But if you go out—and I did tour the forest. In fact, the Forestry Association was so concerned, we had a public lands committee meeting in Lake City and went out and toured the forest. And the amount of standing timber that is left out there will be a real strong sentinel to poor public land management policies, I believe. I had one of our local people out there say that there is probably going to be another endangered species, that is going to be the bark beetle because they will have eaten themselves to death out there on the forest.
    Mr. VOGEL. But it is really disturbing, and especially to the quality of the timber out there. The U.S. Forest Service, in the first 70 years of this century, was a model in Federal Government efficiency. And somehow, we have been able to dismantle that in the last 30 years. But they were able to grow a beautiful forest out there. You look throughout the state of Florida, the Apalachicola National Forest, the Osceola, the Ocala, these lands were cutover and butchered up lands at the turn of the century. And they have created into them a beautiful, beautiful forest with a commodity-oriented production philosophy. And in the last 30 years, that philosophy seems to have changed and now we are going to love our forests to death.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Well, it sure seems to me that we have gotten away from the typical timber cruiser who was an operator that under certain guidelines and standards could go out and evaluate what was in a sale, a potential sale, without having to have the cruiser or whomever come out and mark every single tree. That is very, very inefficient.
    Mr. VOGEL. I suggest you have the talent in the U.S. Forest Service, if you just would unleash it. The district rangers are all bright, well-educated, dedicated people. Unleash them, let them do what their job is. Do not make Atlanta or Washington pass on every single decision they have to make. They are capable people.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. They are capable. And I was also taken with your testimony involving the fact that it took so much to get the sale to where it is now, i.e., the whole NEPA process, because under the Forest Management Practices Act, actually the forester, the ranger or the forest supervisor can exempt a sale from NEPA under certain emergency conditions. Unfortunately, this administration is unwilling to again release their local forest supervisors to make those decisions in the field. In fact, as you said, they required a NEPA process.
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    Let me tell you what is going on in Washington, D.C. The Wilson Bridge is being expanded from a six-lane huge bridge over the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River. It is being expanded from a six-lane bridge to a 12-lane bridge, and guess what, Jack. By an act of Congress, they want to exempt the NEPA process from the impact of the building of that new bridge. They are going to get some fuss from the westerners and other people who have had to live through what you are having to live through now; and that is requiring a NEPA process on absolutely everything, including emergency procedures.
    I just wanted you to be aware of that.
    Mr. Peterson, very quickly. You mentioned in your testimony the fact that to reduce your loads, you mentioned that we need to involve in better and more efficient prescribed burns. You did not mention mechanical removal.
    Mr. PETERSON. My written testimony does mention that and maybe even use of herbicides. The key is fuel reduction. Prescribed fire has its place and is well-practiced by the Division of Forestry and some landowners, but the other processes are equally effective.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. I am very pleased to hear your testimony again, because you have been before my committee.
    Mr. PETERSON. Yes, I have.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. And I really respect your opinions.
    Mr. PETERSON. Thank you.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. But mechanical removal would seem to have far less impact on human health than prescribed burning, and so I was——
    Mr. PETERSON. It would, but when you are talking about large areas, then it becomes almost cost and time prohibitive. But a good prescribed fire regime in and around communities and where they are applicable in the wildland/urban interface. I would hasten to add that we have statutory authority, after due process, to go into some of these areas and reduce that fuel with prescribed fire, and we do that at our expense. So it is a delicate thing that you have the health concerns, you have the proximity to structures, but still it has got to be a mix of the three components.
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    Ms. CHENOWETH. I want to close by just making a comment to Mr. Myers, who probably was in on the evacuation of Flagler County.
    Mr. MYERS. Yes.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. I mean that is absolutely amazing. I just learned today that in most cases, they could only use two-lane roads.
    Mr. MYERS. That is correct.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. And you did it in three days, was it?
    Mr. MYERS. Well, actually less than that. There was really no warning, but what we were able to do, we had put together a hurricane evacuation plan of taking coastal communities inland, so when the word came in, it was a matter of sitting down with those agencies who had already worked through their procedures and start the implementation.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Well, Director Myers, they need you in Kosovo.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Chairman Chenoweth.
    I would like now to call on Congresswoman Corrine Brown.
    Ms. BROWN. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Once again, I want to thank all of you. Having been here and on the ground, I know what a great job you did and I know all of the residents appreciate all of the coordination and help that you all rendered.
    I want to just give an opportunity for Mr. Jack Vogel to tell us how you think we can better improve the Florida forest system.
    Mr. VOGEL. Well, in my written testimony, I give you some examples of what we think could be improved. We think that the National Environmental Policy Act certainly has to be appropriate for a lot of situations in Florida and in our fire recovery. But in a salvage operation like this, why is an environmental assessment necessary when time is of essence, and especially one that takes 30 days to develop, and then a comment period. We think that there should be a categorical exclusion of the National Environmental Policy Act environmental assessment requirement for salvage sales.
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    We also think that the threshold for that categorical exclusion should be raised. Right now, one million board foot seems to be the level which if you go above you cannot get a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act. We think that level should be raised considerably to allow the district ranger to make those decisions, to do those categorical exclusions themselves.
    Ms. BROWN. Thank you. Mr. Myers, you particularly, in coordinating with the other agencies, y'all did a real yeoman's job. What recommendations would you make if we could only implement a couple of them?
    Mr. MYERS. Well, thank you very much. I think the main thing, looking at the four major players in a wildland/urban interface situation—FEMA, U.S. Forestry, state Forestry and Emergency Management. I think the document that Earl Peterson's staff and my staff was able to work together to develop, I think is a model. It shows what our roles, responsibilities are, it eliminates any turf. There is a public information component to it. So we are jointly working on getting that component out. And that is one thing I would recommend, that people take a look at that document.
    Ms. BROWN. Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Congressman Brown.
    Congressman Terry.
    Mr. TERRY. Following up on a theme from the first panel—this is to Mr. Peterson. From your vast experience, impressive experience, taking the last year's fire suppression, you said in your statement that some say the feds came in and took over and that is not true, they were very helpful in the process. What I am curious about is two areas. When they did come in, where were they helpful? In keeping with a theme of a unified command, where do they fit in and who should be in charge of that unified command?
    Mr. PETERSON. Well, of course, in Florida, we work very well with the national forests of Florida, which comprises their local staff. We teamed up with them in unified command this year. Last year, the unified command component of the U.S. Forest Service was from out of Florida, not one of the national forests in Florida. But we joined with them in the unified area command and run the wildfire strategies. I think it is critically important that if you are fighting wildfires or whatever the incident might be, that you have people in charge that are intimately familiar with the strategies, the resources, the fuels. So they did team up with us in unified command and we brought in other Federal agencies and other state agencies in the unified command in 1999, which was a learning experience from 1998. So they played a key role there.
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    That is correct, I cannot say they came in and took over. They came and joined with us in the firefighting effort. I have the concerns that I mentioned in my written and oral testimony that the one size fits all philosophy has to be changed and that you can bring in resources on an as-needed basis without bringing in the whole package, that may be over-kill.
    Mr. TERRY. Let me interrupt your testimony there and maybe take my question in a different direction.
    Mr. PETERSON. Surely.
    Mr. TERRY. The one-size-fits-all reference is to planning. When folks are coming in, they have been trained on a type of fire that is inherent to the western part of the United States, that does not exactly fit here. What advice would you give us then to, instead of just recognizing that there are differences, give us specifics, what do we need to do?
    Mr. PETERSON. I think the U.S. Forest Service could have a more reasonable approach to both their training and their teams, so that the southeastern United States, with its uniqueness would be able to do that. I think also that the cost containment issue fits into the one size fits all. In other words, you do not order the whole package if you only need half of it. And I think that is a message that would do well, if they understood that throughout the organization.
    Mr. TERRY. Mr. Myers, the same.
    Mr. MYERS. I would agree with Earl, because I think the uniqueness—I have learned a lot about firefighting from Earl in that in the south—out west, they use more people and I learned here in Florida in particular that you are looking at more equipment. And as Earl alluded to earlier, specialized equipment. That is why we had all the air resources. So I think we have got to look at the regional aspects of it, but I also think there has got to be some things that are nationwide and obviously that is the consistency in how we do our requesting of resources and eligibility and those things that I think can be fixed through a fire management and control act.
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    Mr. TERRY. That is a good point. Anybody else?
    [No response.]
    Mr. TERRY. Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Terry.
    Mr. Boyd.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you, Madam Chairman. The nice thing about going last is that most subjects have been covered, but I do have some points I want to make and some questions I want to ask.
    First of all, let me thank all of you all for your role in helping the communities with the fires last year, whether that role was in planning or actual implementation or follow-up, whatever it might have been.
    Chief Mathieson, you brought up a very interesting point and one that I want to take back and work on a little bit. And that is the COPS grants. Did I understand you to say that you were looking at COPS grants for emergency notification, communication?
    Mr. MATHIESON. Yes. I think one of the components of the whole COPS More 1998 process has been to improve the technology of police departments throughout the country, certainly so that officers can be redeployed. I think an element of that that this Committee may want to take a look at, in light of all the emergency management issues around the country, wildfires, civil disturbances, whatever the case may be, that we deal with on a regular basis, is how we can use technology to assist us in managing those events. And I think that is an appropriate component of the COPS process within police departments.
    Certainly that can be used as well to encourage the development of some of those consistent operational plans we have been talking about.
    Mr. BOYD. Well, thank you very much for that idea. I am a big supporter of the COPS grants and you will find that law enforcement people all over this state are. And I think it is a very effective and appropriate role for the Federal Government in interfacing and working with local law enforcement.
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    Let me turn to Mr. Myers now. I feel like that we have spent so much time together over the last few years, Joe, it seems like we have always got an emergency going on.
    I tell people around this country and in Congress that we have the state-of-the-art emergency management system, we have the state-of-the-art emergency operations center and we have the best emergency management director in the country. And I mean that sincerely. I just want to say publicly how impressed I have been with what you have done in your short tenure here in Florida—six years now I think?
    Mr. MYERS. Yes, sir.
    Mr. BOYD. —with our emergency management system. I was a member of the legislature, as was Ms. Brown, I think, in 1992 when we put in place the mechanism to fund our emergency management system that we have now. And it has really served Florida very well. And I am proud of you.
    And I just wish we had, Madam Chairman, a chance for the whole committee to go see the emergency operations center in action. It is something. And if any of you sitting out here have not been—I am sure most of you have—you certainly ought to go and see how it works.
    One question for you, Joe, and that is the unified command issue. I know we learned a lot from 1998. Can you tell me how it seems to be working in 1999 and what we did to sort of shore that up?
    Mr. MYERS. It has worked extremely well. The first thing that I did was to go find a fire expert on my staff. So we hired Mr. Dave Halsted, who has become a liaison with the fire community and then that gave us someone—he has been the former president of Florida Fire Chiefs Association. So that gave us someone that could liaison with the fire people in developing this document that outlines exactly—we have four levels of activation in our emergency center, when a fire is just a normal situation and when does it escalate, and at what point in time do we start coming together. That has made a big difference.
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    Some other things that have made a big difference this year that has made an improvement, a spinoff of this, is the training of our National Guard liaisons. We have been able to put them in all of the areas out in the field during this year's fire situation. And also coming together, we saw the fire situation and the state invested initially about $4.5 million to $5 million to start equipping some of the radio communications, not waiting for the entire legislature to finish their appropriations. That helped.
    And I think the most important thing also is the public information that has taken place. There are public service announcements that we are working together jointly on, going around the state, and I think that has made a big difference in getting those resources out quick.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you very much, Joe. The way you use all of the resources and assets that this state has is amazing in your system and I am grateful for that.
    If I can move now to my good friend Earl Peterson, who I have also known for many, many years in your long service to this state.
    Earl, I know that as this state has changed, transitioned from a rural state to an urban state, that the Department of Agriculture's role has changed and in many cases we fought over the years to get you properly funded in the Division of Forestry. I know that a lot of your equipment is outdated, old equipment, it still works well though. Your people are good people, but probably underpaid. I know that that may be changing now as a result of the 1998 fires, I know you got some extra money. But tell me, based on your testimony—I see that red light, if you will just indulge me, Madam Chairman. Tell me how you can be more specific on the time frame about saw timber deterioration, because you stated before Chairman Chenoweth's subcommittee last year that saw timber, salvaged saw timber must be utilized within a few months. Can you be more specific about that and the value of it? I think this is an important point as it relates to Mr. Vogel's point.
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    Mr. PETERSON. Well, there are some variables there, of course. What is the climatic conditions there. But the key is of course saw timber will have blue stain which will render it ineffective for saw timber, but then it will go to pulpwood which is much less in value.
    Mr. BOYD. Within 60 to 90 days?
    Mr. PETERSON. About 60 to 90 days would be a good time frame on average.
    Mr. BOYD. OK. Now we have all heard about your expediting the state sales, in three weeks you had nine sales done. Did you throw out the window biological and wildlife considerations or did you keep those in consideration also?
    Mr. PETERSON. I do not think you can say we threw them out, I think we have a sensitivity there that we keep them in place, but it is possible to do both. You can have the salvage sale in an expeditious way, we do not have to go through the hearing process or a NEPA process. But we did it in a sensitive sort of way, we got in there—the problem we faced by and large was the glutted market. It was already weak before the fires came, but we moved the timber out without a problem.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you, and if I might ask one questions of Mr. Vogel, Madam Chairman.
    Mr. Vogel, I know your written testimony and the questions that you have answered here pretty well described the situation. I happen to agree wholeheartedly with your written testimony and your oral testimony today. I have been—I guess maybe that is because I have been in the timber management business most of my life also.
    But I want to just review for everybody kind of where we are here. The state Division of Forestry offered within three weeks of the end of the fires, nine sales. Even Flagler County offered a sale within a month and they had to change an ordinance locally to make it happen. But yet the United States Forestry Service, it was three and a half months later after the fire before they offered their first sale. I understand you to say that Congress needs to act to change this. Is it your belief that that is the only way it can happen, is—can it be done administratively or does Congress have to act to do it?
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    Mr. VOGEL. Congressman Boyd, honestly I think it has taken 25 years to change the U.S. Forest Service to get them where they are today. You know, in the sixties and probably up into the early seventies, the U.S. Forest Service still had the ability to function and function rapidly and do the things that they needed to do. They still were, of course, encumbered because of being a big Federal agency. But it has taken 25 years to get them to where they are now.
    The planning process—we have been doing our national forest plans in Florida for years and years. And I had the Division of Forestry's bureau chief tell me that if we ever, ever got to the point where we were planning like the U.S. Forest Service, he would quit, he would not do it. And he will stay to his dying breath to keep us from getting like the U.S. Forest Service is in their planning process.
    I think it is going to have to take some real strong Congressional focus to get the situation turned around. I do not think it can be done administratively.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you very much. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, Mr. Boyd. And I know you and other members of the committee have some other questions and we would like to submit these in writing and include your responses for the record, if that is appropriate.
    I again want to add my thanks. I agree with what Mr. Boyd was saying. Mr. Myers and I have worked together a good bit and we are very blessed in this state to have a great, great emergency preparedness, wonderful head of our Florida Division of Forestry, because you two work so well and closely together to manage this statewide, and of course unfortunately are having to do it again this year too. But we hope we can get better prepared.
    And Chief Mathieson and Fire Chief Baker have set the model in this country for how a police department and a fire department should coordinate and work together. In too many communities, there is a tension and a little bit of competition, and they have been used, I know around this country, as a model of how you can work together, and I attribute it to the great leadership of Chief Mathieson and Chief Baker, because they really made their two departments come together, work together for the benefit of the whole community. And we are very blessed here in Ormond Beach to have such outstanding leadership.
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    So thank you so much all of you for being with us. We really appreciate it very much and we are going to use your information and ideas as we move forward.
    At this point, I would like now to turn the gavel over to Chairman Chenoweth who is going to empanel the remaining witnesses.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Chairman Fowler.
    The Chair would like to call up to the witness table Mr. Denny Truesdale, Assistant Director, Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management accompanied by Mr. Bruce Jewell, Deputy Regional U.S. Forester, Southern Region from Atlanta, Georgia and Mr. Joe Ferguson, who will also be accompanying Mr. Truesdale. Mr. Ferguson is the U.S. Fire Management Officer at the National Forest in Tallahassee, Florida. Also, we would like to call Mr. Lacy Suiter, Associate Director, Response and Recovery Directorate from FEMA in Washington, D.C. and Mr. John Copenhaver, Regional Director, Region IV, FEMA in Atlanta, Georgia.
    I want to welcome you all to the witness table, but before we get going, I wonder if you would stand and raise your right arm to the square.
    [Witnesses sworn.]
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you. Do we have room for everyone up there? OK. The Chair recognizes Mr. Truesdale, it is good to see you again. Mr. Truesdale.

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    Mr. TRUESDALE. Thank you. I am Denny Truesdale, Assistant Director for Fire and Aviation Management for the Forest Service and I have with me Mr. Bruce Jewell, our Deputy Regional Forester out of the Atlanta office and Mr. Joe Ferguson, the Fire Management Officer out of the office here in Tallahassee.
    I will briefly summarize my comments and submit the rest of them for the record. I will skip over many of the parts that have been covered, the statistics and the sequence of events.
    The Forest Service had four major roles in the fires in 1998. We are the primary agency for managing fires that occur on National Forest Systems lands within the national forests here in Florida. We are a cooperator with the state and local governments here in providing access to the national mobilization process for the local fires that are not on National Forest Systems land. We assist with FEMA as a principal advisor under the fire suppression assistance program that has been discussed already. And we also had a role as the emergency support function number four under the Federal response plan, which was activated under the emergency—or the disaster declaration. But more commonly we fulfill that responsibility for hurricanes, earthquakes and other FEMA responses.
    It was mentioned by many people that the situation in Florida last year was one of the most extreme and difficult, complicated fire management situations that has occurred within the United States, and I agree with that. We have had the 1988 fires in Yellowstone, we have had fires in southern California that have done some tremendous damage. The Oakland Hills fire, for example, destroyed thousands of homes in an afternoon and a half. But the combination of the long duration, the multiple fires, the multiple agencies involved, the number of tactical aircraft that were involved in one place at one time exceeded those other situations. The total numbers perhaps had been exceeded during Yellowstone and some of the campaigns throughout the west, but I agree with many of the folks that you have heard from already, it was an extremely complicated situation and one that does not happen in Florida to that degree with the regularity that it might occur in southern California or other places in the U.S.
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    And to have the local organizations, the state forestry organizations, the national FEMA office, the local emergency management organization that Joe Myers leads, to have those organizations come together in a situation that has never occurred before, I have found to be a remarkable situation, particularly if you look at the lack of accidents, the safety record of the firefighters who are here, and I think the successes that occurred in saving houses and saving the communities, protecting the forest resources.
    I think also that the thing that I find extremely heartening is the response of the state and local communities, the Federal agencies to look at the situation that occurred in 1998, to bring people together, the government's task force, the group that Chief Dombeck pulled together to look at what happened, what have we learned and how can we improve, and that many things did occur in 1999 that are a definite improvement over the way, even though I felt it was a good response in 1998, but it is even better. The use of unified command, the way that the local communities are brought in together with the Federal and state agencies and with FEMA. I think many of those lessons were well learned and by all of us and that we were—I commend the folks here for being able to look at the situation and be able to even improve on it for 1999, even though 1999 has proven not to be quite as severe as in 1998.
    I would like to turn to some of those things, the lessons that were learned and some of the issues that we have dealt with. I agree with the earlier statement that the incident command system has been very successful throughout the United States in providing a model of a command organization and structure that can be used for all types of organizations, from very small fires, very large fires, organizations on a single initial attack to major conflagrations that we have. And the successful use of that system, I think, is admirable.
    Earl Peterson, among others, talked about the need for prescribed fire and fuels treatment. I think that is a critical part of what we have learned in Florida and what we are learning throughout the United States.
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    The wildland/urban interface assistance component within the state fire assistance part of the state and private forestry appropriation included in the President's budget for the year 2000 is $10 million to address those sorts of issues that arise from Florida treating fuels, working with landowners within the wildland/urban interface and I think that is a key portion throughout this.
    We had many other things that I would be willing to answer questions about and discuss with you. I see my time is up. I will submit my written remarks and be happy to answer questions as we go through.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Truesdale. The Chair now recognizes Mr. Lacy Suiter for your testimony.
    Mr. SUITER. Good afternoon, Chairman, thank you.
    Well, as has been said, this was obviously in 1998, an unprecedented year for fires in Florida, as indeed it was in other parts of the country also. Florida did an incredible job in response to that, and not just the state government but the local governments involved. As a matter of fact, if they had not done such a good job and had the United States Forest Service and the other Federal agencies under the President's direction not been so involved in it, we may be sitting here in a pile of ashes today as opposed to what we see. They really responded incredibly—2300 individual fires, half a million acres destroyed, 130,000 people evacuated, 10,000 firefighters—all the things that you have heard all morning.
    We estimate right now in FEMA that when all the bills are in, just for the fire response alone in 1998, we are looking at around $125 million that the Federal government has spent, thanks to your leadership, in this response. In all the disasters that occurred in Florida in 1998, around $400 million has been spent in terms of fires, hurricanes and everything else that occurred.
    I think that they did do a good job. I was the state director in Tennessee for about 30 years and Joe Myers, the gentleman you met here awhile ago, was in North Carolina at the time and we were brother state directors. And I would like to take credit for him being so good. He modeled his Emergency Operations Center after mine in Nashville, Tennessee, and everything that he has done right the last several years, I taught him.
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    Mr. SUITER. I refer to him as my little brother and I do wish that we had 49 other state directors in the country like that. And we do have a lot of very good state directors, but Joe is certainly at the top of it and he keeps all the rest of us on our feet as we go.
    It is certain that in hindsight in 1998, we could have done some things better perhaps at all levels of government. We think that we are working—Director Witt, James Lee Witt, who sends you his regards incidentally—flew down here specially to be here for that fire. He was in Alaska fishing and we had to get him back down here, he and Senator Stevens back down here to view that. I was down here myself in that activity. And our role in this process was to support the state government in its process of supporting the local governments in that activity and we hope we did that. The President appointed an individual to be here during the entire disaster, whom we have with us today, Paul Fay was the President's personal representative during the activity.
    Following that, to make sure we do not get into the unnecessary problems or bureaucracy to a point that perhaps we got into last year. James Lee Witt, the Director, did tell me that he wanted a new fire suppression program—we are not there yet. We are currently redesigning the program and seeing what we ought to do. But we did issue some interim guidance on April 15, which you may or may not have a copy of up there. But at any rate, the interim guidance does expand it to the point that we were comfortable with, doing it with our legal counsel at that point in time.
    The redesign is underway. We have a meeting in two weeks, July 14, in Washington with the appropriate people involved from all across the country to review that redesign. And we are hoping then to meet with all the state directors in Des Moines in the middle of August and talk about that to the next detail, and then get the program out to you. The Director would like to announce it in the next few weeks.
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    We want to simplify, we want to clarify, we want to expand the fire suppression program to meet the state's needs in applying for and receiving Federal assistance in this process. We want to make sure, however, that we do not step on what you, the Congress, have carefully crafted over the years to be Presidential discretionary disaster assistance. And we do reach a point in there where perhaps the fire suppression agreement goes as far as it should go without the Presidentially declared disaster, which you in your wisdom have decided we should be operating under.
    There are a number of issues that did come up that people have responded to, or questions that have been asked and we will be delighted to respond to those when we go through your questions. So rather than me taking the chance of responding to questions you are going to ask in a minute, I will stop right there. And I will save my time for my colleague, Mr. Copenhaver, if that is OK, Madam Chairman.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much, Mr. Suiter.
    The Chair now recognizes Mr. John Copenhaver.
    Mr. COPENHAVER. Thank you, Madam Chairman and other members of the panel. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today to address issues about the Florida wildfires.
    As you most likely know, 1998 was a very difficult year for the southeastern United States. When the year began, we were feeling the impact of El Nino, it was in full swing. We started out the year with flash flooding and flooding in Florida. We moved through an almost unprecedented tornado season here in the southeast with many lives lost. We then moved into the wildfires here in Florida when the undergrowth that was generated because of the flooding turned dry and began to burn. And then shortly after the wildfires were extinguished, we moved into hurricane season. If you can recall, hurricane season was a most active season in 1998, and unfortunately promises again to be active in 1999.
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    But looking specifically at what happened in the Florida wildfires, we learned a number of lessons, we looked at some of the consequences such as consequences of an economic nature, consequences like the postponement of the Pepsi 400 race—serious consequences to the local community—I think I have got a few more minutes—but just the moving of that race to October from July was a consequence of serious economic nature to the community here and we are certainly well aware of that. That was a decision that was not made lightly.
    Here in Volusia County, we saw the fires burn perilously close to many structures and we saw the heroic efforts of the firefighters and the people charged with controlling the flames as they moved in to try to save structures and to save property. And we learned a lot, because disasters truly are, in addition to being painful, they are learning experiences, and we have never gone through a single disaster at the local, state or at the Federal emergency management level that we have not learned a great deal from it. And this disaster is certainly no exception to that.
    As has been noted, it has been a very complex disaster. It has been a very complex situation involving coordination among many different agencies at many different levels. And we have learned quite a bit from it and continue to learn.
    Some of the learning experiences I think gave us a payback in 1999 when we again experienced fires here in Florida. We lost very few structures, even though we had more fires, burned over 350,000 acres, we lost fewer structures and the effort was more coordinated in nature and hopefully more effective in the long run.
    One of the things that we tried to do, in addition to incorporating the knowledge that we have gained from each disaster in terms of how do we respond better the next time, we also used what we have learned from disasters in terms of being better at mitigation, in terms of doing the kinds of things in advance of a disaster that can begin to lessen the impact of disasters in communities. And one prime example of that is our project impact initiative, which I hope that a number of you have heard of, which gets at the very root cause of the economic impact of disasters in this country and serves to try to minimize the impact of disasters by identifying the risks that communities face such as wildfires, and by trying to put in place programs and processes in advance, with Federal seed money, to make certain that the impact of disaster in those communities is lessened.
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    Again, we have learned a lot here in Florida in the aftermath of the 1998 wildfires. We are working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to set the ground work for joint long-term mitigation strategy here. The strategy has four main goals—to promote multi-hazard mitigation planning, to enhance government and private sector partnerships, to provide technical assistance to communities and to establish processes to implement long-term community redevelopment.
    A lot of this is being accomplished through the hazard mitigation grant program, HMGP for short. It is a key instrument that we are using, particularly in Florida. We have allocated over $86.9 million to Florida for hazard mitigation grants which are being effectively used. Over $50 million of that has been already identified in terms of future projects and initiatives.
    One of the first projects directly related to the wildfires will be a $4.5 million undertaking between FEMA and the Florida Department of Forestry, including the Florida Division of Emergency Management, to fund education and outreach initiatives, to teach people about wildfires, to teach people about wildfire safety, fuel reduction and prescribed burns program and also this pamphlet ''Save your home from Florida's wildfires'', which we have copies for each of the members here and copies at the back table. We will be more than happy to provide you with that.
    Ultimately, 1998 was a difficult year for us, from a Federal perspective as well as from a state and local perspective. There were six Presidential declarations in the state of Florida in 1998. Thus far, we have been spared a lot of the wrath of nature, but not all of it, because again, we have seen wildfires here in this state and we do anticipate that the 1999 hurricane season is going to be very difficult.
    But ultimately what brings us through is our ability to learn and our ability to use the knowledge that we have gained from disasters to work better together as team mates. I am proud to be on the same team as my colleagues Mr. Suiter and Joe Myers here from Florida as well as the fine local emergency managers and firefighters that we have here.
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    Thank you.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much, Mr. Copenhaver.
    Your testimonies were very interesting and I am particularly impressed by the fact, Mr. Copenhaver, that you say we learned a lot. That pleases me.
    I want to say to all of you that my concern is that the Federal Government affirm and assist local governments. I have learned since I have been in Congress that one of the biggest problems is that local units of government—individuals become suspicious of the Federal Government and the fact that they may take over command and control and try to impose the one size fits all. So I am very pleased to hear your testimony and in large part, that is the kind of progress that we need to see, so that people can be assured that local units of government will be able to manage their areas according to what they judge to be best. And while we cannot throw Federal dollars after programs that are not good, that will not work; nevertheless, the respect that we need to afford the local units of government, I think we have to demonstrate should be extraordinary. And that way then we can do away with the suspicion.
    I do want to say in the flood situation that I referred to earlier in Clearwater County, Idaho, we had a situation there that because of lack of guidelines and standards relative to how do you respond, who do you call and then how do you submit your claims, all of that ultimately wound up where the sheriff—there was a grand jury investigation. The sheriff, the county commissioners were all held—were all indicted by the grand jury who only heard from the Federal Government. There was a raid of the courthouse records at 7:00 in the morning by the U.S. Marshals on behalf of FEMA, to get the original records out of the courthouse. And those records were retained in the FEMA office and in the U.S. Attorney's Office, and they in some cases were records that the sheriff was dealing with and they were criminals' records that had nothing to do with the flooding situation.
    So you see, this is why I am so sensitive to this. I mean you just need one more of those incidents in this nation and a few of us are just going to raise cain. This happened in my district and I do not ever want it to happen again.
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    By the way, the Federal Government has deemed that there was no cause of action, and people are free now, these dedicated public servants just like you are, are free now because they found nothing on them, but nevertheless, I am still having trouble getting the records back into the county so the county can do their business.
    So that is why I think it is so incredibly important that we respond to what we are hearing here, and that is that whether it is on the Internet, whether it is in a manual or whatever, that one of the primary focuses FEMA must engage in is putting together a manual and putting it on the Internet so that local units of government will know exactly how to approach making their claims and exactly knowing who to call and when.
    So I do not like to publicly use these kinds of examples, the press is not here now, but you can see why I am so excited. Because that kind of reaction is untenable and it just creates the suspicion.
    Mr. Suiter, you mentioned that there was a person here who was operating as President Clinton's direct envoy. I wonder if you would ask that person to please stand and introduce them.
    Mr. SUITER. He is right here, you swore him in just a moment ago.
    Mr. FAY. Paul Fay, I am with the FEMA Regional Office in Atlanta and I was the Federal coordinating officer for all of the disasters last year and this year in Florida.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Fay, it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for being here.
    I wanted to ask some questions of Mr. Truesdale. In general, it appears that the Forest Service performed very, very well during the fire season of 1998, and as you said too, we have learned a lot. But what has not gone well unfortunately, as described so well by Jack Vogel, are the agency's efforts in regards to post-fire recovery on national forest lands.
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    First, would you please explain why it took the Forest Service five times longer to offer timber salvage sales than it did the State of Florida?
    Mr. TRUESDALE. With your permission, I am going to refer this question to Mr. Jewell and Mr. Ferguson for the specifics on the local situation down here. I would like to say that as was pointed out by earlier witnesses, the private landowners, counties, cities and states work under a different set of environmental laws than the Federal Government has to operate under. And I have been assured that we followed the guidelines under NEPA in order to get these sales out. But I will refer to Mr. Jewell for the specifics.
    Mr. JEWELL. Joe has the actual time lines that he can talk about here in a second, but we are very concerned, as you are, Mr. Boyd and you are, Chairman Chenoweth, about good utilization of resources in a situation like this. The Forest Service, as Denny has pointed out, has a number of different mandates that it has to balance in coming to those decisions. So it is not a simple process. The NEPA process is designed to force that sort of reasoned approach to decision-making.
    What we did here was essentially take a process that runs normally 105 to 110 days and by eliminating that stay of activities during the appeal period, shortened that down to about 60 days. I think that was a pretty good effort. I wish in hindsight that we had been a little quicker out of the starting gate. I can only tell you that we were in the process of helping with the fire emergency here and still winding down from fire emergencies in both Texas and Oklahoma and similar storm clean up operations in Texas, so the region was stretched pretty thin. We did not have a whole lot of people to throw at this until we got past the fire emergency here.
    But beyond that, I feel like the forest here did a good job in working its way through that process and we were glad that the stay of implementation, 45-day period, could be lifted in this case and so that they were immediately able to go to advertising sales.
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    Joe, if you have any additional time lines or anything like that you would like to add to that.
    Mr. FERGUSON. I have the time line in front of me and at the starting point, one of the concerns is the same people we use to mark timber are also our firefighting force. And so a lot of our firefighters are also the same people that mark timber. So we cannot get started while fires are still going, we are using the same people for both. So that is one of the problems.
    The decision notice was signed on October 2 and then the first logging began November 13 and the last sale was offered on November 23. So there's about three months to three and a half from the time the fires ended, and with the current guidelines we have in place, that is about as fast as it possibly could have been done.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. You know, the law allows for—and I referred to this earlier—allows for categorical exclusions to be subject to the ability for the forest supervisor to act immediately, as they did on the state level. But for, in this case, categorical exclusions to be subject to a 30-day comment period and a 45-day appeals period, do you not think that is contrary to the purpose of what Congress intended in putting together the categorical exclusions in the law originally? And do you find that the guidelines that have been put forth without Congressional approval run contrary to existing law?
    Mr. FERGUSON. I am really not in a position to answer that as being the local fire management officer. I do think that there should be ways we can do things faster.
    You hit on it earlier when you talked about the suspicion of the Federal Government. That is one of the problems that we deal with, is there is a lot of suspicion of the Federal Government from environmental groups as well as other groups. If we could just act with professional judgment without that suspicion, things might be faster. But because of that suspicion, we go through processes that do take longer time.
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    The original intent of Congress, I do not know, I am sure you are correct in that, but from the local level, all we can do is follow the guidelines that come down to us from Atlanta and from Washington.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Well, I see my time is up and I have a lot more questions that I would like to ask you, but I am going to pass the time on. I do want to ask Mr. Suiter before I give up my time, would you please provide for Chairman Fowler's Committee with a carbon copy to me personally, a report on where you are with regards to the guidelines and standards for counties, states and local units of government?
    Mr. SUITER. Sure.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much.
    Mr. SUITER. I would like the opportunity to comment a little bit further before this hearing is over.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Oh, for the record, please do. Go ahead.
    Mr. SUITER. This community, the state I mean, had 170 public officials conferences last year for our local officials, more than any other state in the country did, quite frankly. We published manuals on what a local elected official ought to do prior to an event, what they ought to do during an event, what they ought to do immediately post-disaster, and the preparation part of it. Our mitigation directorate has publications for every conceivable hazard you can think of from earthquakes to fires to Y2K, those activities. These materials tell precisely how the Federal Government, with the President acting on behalf of the American people, would manage a catastrophic disaster, and the post-disaster activity once the disaster has been declared by the President. In that activity, there are workshops, there are activities that show them what the process is.
    Now in this particular event, because of the complexity in 1998, of trying to put a fire suppression program together with an emergency declaration, together with a major disaster declaration, to make sure that the outcome in the end was the best for the citizens of Florida, it did get somewhat complex. And it is that part that we are trying to focus on and we will provide for you, want to provide, anxious to provide for you, the details of how we are going to sort that problem out.
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    But if we had gone solely, as an example, with a major disaster declaration, the local governments would not have been reimbursed for their regular time. So in that case, we chose to go with the emergency declaration so they get both the emergency and overtime declaration. If we had gone with the major declaration, we would have been limited to 75/25 costshare. We went with fire suppression grants because when the average annual fire cost doubled, they got 100 percent reimbursement, so it is a mish-mash of things that I think the state would agree that while complex, and maybe more so on the local government part, as it relates only to fires—in that instance, it was pretty complex, but it was done so for the best advantage we think of the state of Florida and we would be willing to sit down with you or anyone else and talk about it.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Is that same information available to all the county commissioners and all the mayors so that——
    Mr. SUITER. Our entire public assistance program is already on the Internet. Our entire human services program is already on the Internet. We have no direct contact ourselves per se with local governments. Our services are provided through the Governor and through the state emergency management services to the local officials. So it is there in that process, yes.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. In your report to us, would you please outline how you intend to make sure that everybody has access to that information?
    Mr. SUITER. Of course I will, and I would like to talk to you about it personally sometime.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Good. Thank you very much.
    Mr. SUITER. At some time I hope you will let me respond to this Idaho thing you mentioned awhile ago too, maybe you want to do that afterwards, but I would like to clarify the record on that.
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    Ms. CHENOWETH. I would like to talk to you about that.
    Mr. SUITER. Thank you.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you. The Chair now recognizes Mr. Allen Boyd for questions.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    First of all, let me say to all of you that I know, as employees of a Federal agency, many times when you appear before Congressional committees, you get beat on and banged on and criticized, and sometimes we fail to thank you for the good work that you do. And I want to say to both agencies represented here that you have been very helpful and instrumental in helping Florida through the emergency situations we have had. I know you guys from FEMA—I know we probably took a lot of lessons from Hurricane Andrew and under James Lee Witt some significant changes have been made. And it is a different agency now and it is a very effective agency. And we in Florida, probably more than anywhere in the nation, appreciate that.
    The Forest Service, you have performed very admirably too. And last year, during the fires, you guys were critical in helping us bring together, coordinate and bring those fires under control. And I am grateful for that, I really am.
    Paul Fay, I thought he was one of us; you know, every time I would go to the EOC, he would be there.
    Mr. COPENHAVER. He is originally from Tennessee, sir.
    Mr. BOYD. Let me ask, first of all, Mr. Suiter, and I know you touched on this just in the answer to the last question, but I am going to read from the testimony of two of the local government officials here; one is from Mr. Ryan, who is the emergency management director here in Volusia County. He says ''It appears that reimbursement decisions were made based upon the convenience of the reimbursement mechanism, fire suppression grants, that had been considered workable for wildfires in the past. Apparently this arrangement did not take into consideration the unique aspects of the wildfires in Volusia and other Florida counties.''
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    And then Mr. Gentry says ''The grant monies would be much more effective if made available to local agencies as well as state government before the area was burning, so equipment and personnel could be staged earlier for a timely response.''
    Now I know you guys are constantly doing after-action reports and evaluations and assessments and trying to figure out how better to respond and make situations better. Are you giving any consideration to those two statements made and how we might change things to make it better?
    Mr. SUITER. Let me answer them in reverse order. First, the one that Eric Gentry addressed, before declarations. It has been an interesting proposal. We do that currently with hurricanes, if we have a Category 3 or larger hurricane offshore, we are within a 72-hour landfall as we did during Hurricane Georges last year, I think from Monroe County and I don't recall how far north it went up on the Atlantic side. We do get involved in pre-landfall declarations. And in all honesty, Mr. Boyd, I had not given that consideration in terms of this particular type of event.
    Mr. BOYD. Like a fire, you would use something like a drought index.
    Mr. SUITER. A drought index. And quite frankly, sir, I had not given that consideration until it came up in today's discussion. It is something that we should consider. At the same time that we are doing these things, we have to be careful that we only supplement the activities of the state and local government and we do not supplant them in that responsibility. As they continue to own and operate and manage that disaster, we have to make sure that we are in the business of supplementing that and not supplanting them in that process. So it is an evaluation process that we will have to work with you to figure out what is best. I thought that was very interesting because we do do it in some other activities. We cannot do it in earthquakes and tornadoes and things but if we know a flood is coming down the Mississippi River, as an example, we may do some pre-work in that area. So we need to give that some consideration.
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    I do not know what happened to the reimbursement process last year. I will have to look into it and answer it better for the record. I do know, as I gave in my answer just a moment ago, that yes, it was probably complex, but I must tell you that an awful lot of men and women were working together to try to make sure that we gave the people of all these counties the maximum amount of money that we could possibly give them, to the extent of the law, and have the Inspector General continue to approve the activities that we did. That is obviously what James Lee, the Director, wants to do, is to make this much, much simpler and much easier to understand and we are going to do that to the extent we can. We are working with Ms. Fowler on some other Stafford Act changes which are underway right now. Unfortunately I was out of town and did not get to testify before you the other day, but I look forward to working with your staff in that process. So we are going to have to look at it.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you very much. And I would just simply ask in y'all's evaluation and analysis and after-action reports, to take that into consideration, these local government statements.
    Mr. Truesdale, I appreciate you coming here today. Obviously I have some questions for you relative to what Mr. Vogel has talked about and what Chairman Chenoweth has addressed earlier. Two situations which—I am a new member of Congress, I came in two years ago, a little over two years ago. And I just find it difficult to comprehend and understand what we are trying to do and I want you to help me and figure out how we make this better, how do we improve it.
    Two situations—one is—the first is the Apalachicola—by the way, before I start, let me tell you that Marcia Kearney, Andy Colonino and Keith Lawrence, I have a good working relationship with every one of them, I think they do a great job for you on the ground. They have heard some of this from me before, so they will not be surprised about it.
    But in Apalachicola, we had a fellow ride down the highway with forests on either side, one side wilderness and the other side not wilderness, and light two fires, one on either side of the road. We ran some equipment in on the non-wilderness side and put it out, it burned 15 acres. We could not put equipment in on the other side based on whatever, I am not sure, but it burned 24,000 acres. That seems to me an unreasonable thing to allow to happen.
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    Secondly, is the three and a half month period in which we were bogged down in bureaucracy or whatever in terms of getting our timber out. There is another issue here in which Ms. Chenoweth and myself and others are working on, and that is the reduction of forest revenue, national forest revenue to local governments, particularly school systems. There is a nationwide coalition working on now how we resolve this. And you all are exacerbating the problem with the kinds of things that happened after the fire. And that is where you have $2.5 million worth of timber in the Osceola that was damaged and should have been salvaged and we only salvaged about $400,000 worth.
    I guess my question to you is, the answers to those problems, can they be done administratively or will it, like Mr. Vogel said, will it take an act of Congress to do it?
    Mr. TRUESDALE. Well, the specific questions would relate to NEPA or the Wilderness Act, for example, that requires certain activities in wildernesses or prohibits certain activities in wildernesses or the activities under NEPA that require public involvement, those would require in many cases Congressional action.
    Mr. BOYD. If I might interrupt you. It is my understanding, and again I am relatively new and I do not have—I am not as knowledgeable about statutes as I ought to be, but in that case where you have a disaster occurring, a wildfire, that the statute provides for leeway, for some discretion on the part of the local forester. And we are comfortable with that, but that is not happening.
    Is that correct or is it not correct?
    Mr. TRUESDALE. First of all, I will have to plead that I am a firefighter, not an environmental lawyer, so I would be happy to answer—get back to you with that answer from our folks in Washington who probably could clarify that for you.
    Mr. BOYD. OK.
    Mr. TRUESDALE. Unless, Bruce, you would have any comment on that. I think from a national policy standpoint, I would prefer to defer that to the folks in our office who are better equipped to answer that. I am actually not sure whether administrative action would be possible in all these cases or not.
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    Mr. BOYD. If you could find that out about Allen Boyd's concern about what happened and the Forest Service role after the fire—those two things. One is why did we allow that fire to spread through 24,000 acres when we could have stopped it.
    And secondly, why could we not get more than 1900 acres of timber salvaged off of 23,000 acres.
    Those are common sense things that seems like we can solve, and that is the question I would like to have answered based on this hearing.
    Mr. BOYD. Thank you.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Boyd. The Chair now recognizes Chairman Fowler for questions.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you so much, Chairman Chenoweth, and I thank you gentlemen for being here.
    I know we all went through the battles last year and we were pleased that we got through them, but we are trying to avoid that situation this year. And as we already know, in half the year, we have already had more fires in Florida than we had in all of last year. So I am concerned with what lessons did we learn and what are we putting in place to make sure we will not have some of the problems that we had last year.
    I have got a couple of questions. One is for FEMA, for either Mr. Suiter or Mr. Copenhaver, either one. Mr. Copenhaver, I am a native of Georgia, so I was glad when you got your appointment and I know you are doing a great job at FEMA and look forward to working more closely with you in my new role on the Oversight Subcommittee.
    Mr. COPENHAVER. Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. So we look forward to doing that.
    I have been very concerned about—and you have heard it time and time again with these other panels today, that there was a lack of Federal agency coordination among the Federal agencies, as well as between the Federal agencies and the state and local, that there was a lack of communication and a lack of coordination both.
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    I know last year during the fires, I had to get on the phone with the FCC to get them to release a communications frequency in order to keep communication lines open. It should not have taken me to have to do that. There should be something in the process. You know, I have got the fire chief calling me saying we cannot even communicate because we cannot get the FCC to open up a communications frequency. I called the FCC and ''oh, we are going to do it in a few days.'' Well, you know, a few days does not get it when everything is burning.
    So I want to make sure what is being done to make sure that our Federal agencies are better coordinating among themselves when this type of thing occurs, as well as with the state and local. Can you tell me what is being done to improve that or what we need to do to make it work better?
    Mr. SUITER. If we could—are you familiar with what happened? This is Paul Fay, he was the—he has been sworn in and he was the Federal coordinating officer. I am not familiar with the issue, but I will respond to the fix.
    Mr. FAY. We had our support functions operational during that period of time. General Services Administration brought someone in with communications, which was Emergency Support Function–2. There was some problems and some delays and we worked through those. We did have the Federal agencies working with the state agencies trying to alleviate the problem.
    As has been testified earlier, we had people coming in from 48 different states with equipment, all types of different radios. And we worked through that. I think in 1999, it worked much better than it did in 1998. There was a problem, it was identified and it was something we tried to work through.
    Ms. FOWLER. I think for 1999, we want to—it should not have taken me to call the FCC since, you know, the people here knew that we were having all this equipment coming in and we could not get a communication frequency assigned. So that is what I want to make sure it is not going to take somebody having to call their member of Congress, no matter where they are in the country, at midnight and say we cannot get the FCC to give us a communication frequency, or we cannot get the U.S. Forest Service to release some assets, or whatever it is, because there is not communication going on among these Federal agencies in the manner it should be.
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    So are we setting up some way to not have that happen again?
    Mr. SUITER. Well, quite frankly, ma'am, I was not even fully aware of that particular problem. However, once the President declares a disaster, the Federal response plan is the guiding document. That is managed by the catastrophic disaster response group, which is basically the Cabinet Secretaries of every Federal agency. They all have representatives, which Mr. Truesdale is a representative at the Federal response plan table, in our emergency operations center there in Washington. If that had come up through it, there would have been a way to take care of that particular issue.
    Secondly, had this been what we would call a catastrophic, what I would call a catastrophic disaster, then there are assets within FEMA's capacity—our mobile emergency radio systems and within our disaster systems, that we could have deployed out for all of the command and control folks to have worked from, in that effort. We would not have had the resources to put one in every police car, every fire car and I doubt that either fire or police cars would have wanted that. But that is not what you are suggesting, of course.
    Ms. FOWLER. No. My worry—it is interesting that what I have been hearing today—my subcommittee had a hearing a few weeks ago on terrorism and we heard from people in Oklahoma City and places, and one of the things we heard was, you know, under these plans, all the Federal people come in and the city council members in Oklahoma City said they spent—the Federal people when they got there, all spent most of the day arguing among themselves over who was in charge and who was going to do what.
    I want to make sure that this system we are setting up for fighting our wildfires is not going to be that way. And I think there was a little bit of that a year ago, you know, some of the communication among our own Federal agencies was not very good. So that we have a system whereby it works, that we do not have to worry about it.
    Mr. SUITER. May I respond?
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    Ms. FOWLER. Yes, sir.
    Mr. SUITER. As I said awhile ago when you were out of the room, there were some startup problems, we recognize those problems and we are working on them, and we do think 1999 has gone better. In reference to Oklahoma City, I was in charge of most of the Oklahoma City disaster on behalf of the Federal Government and I do not think that the council woman who addressed you the other day was even remotely correct. And to make sure of that, I checked in with the fire department, I checked in with the mayor and the other people in Oklahoma City and that is not their version of what happened. I was on the ground within four hours personally, along with Director Witt. Obviously, when we all of a sudden bring in 27 search and rescue teams, there is a lot of logistical support. But Gary, who is the fire chief there, said that does not represent the fire department of Oklahoma City, nor was there that type of confusion.
    Ms. FOWLER. Well, again——
    Mr. SUITER. If the council woman were here, I would be challenging her on that, but perhaps it is inappropriate for me to do so now.
    Ms. FOWLER. Well, we are going to allow FEMA to submit written testimony to that hearing.
    We have heard the local people today saying, you know, again, the need for local input because they are the ones who understand, which was the same there. So we need to just make sure to coordinate a little better.
    I think the plan is in place, when I read through Mr. Truesdale's testimony where you spelled out already in 1999 some of the things that were done with the fires that we have had, changes that have been made to help address it better.
    My other problem is with the U.S. Forest Service because it was that Service that I had to go to three different people before I could finally get somebody who would not tell me it was going to take two or three days, but that they would get some resources down here. I never turned those name in because I did not want to get them fired, but you know, it was disturbing to me that it took that.
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    And so again, hoping that actions are being taken to make sure that we do not have firefighters on the ground and they cannot communicate with the helicopter in the air to tell them where to drop the water because we either are not on the same communications link or we cannot get things opened, or there are problems with setting back fires, you know, which we were having then—so that all this gets coordinated better because it gives our local people and all of us a lot better sense of security when we know that is occurring.
    If they think the Federal Government is coming in and they are going to really do this right and then we end up with some of these problems too. So I was pleased to see it seems we are learning from this and hopefully we are doing it better. And hopefully next time we call somebody in Washington, if we have to, you know I will not have to say turn on the TV and you can see these fires for yourself and know that they are burning and we need help now.
    But I think we are all learning from this experience. We have been dealing with hurricanes more than fires in this state and we are now putting our fire response together better too.
    But I do appreciate that, appreciate you all being here today for this hearing, it has really helped us tremendously. I have read your written testimony and look forward to continuing, as I say, working with all of you and particularly with FEMA in my new role. I appreciate all that FEMA does because you always come in and are so instrumental—and you were in this. I mean I heard from so many of the local people who really appreciated the help that they received both before and after also.
    And with this new bill that we have passed in the House, if we can just get the Senate to pass it too, it is going to give mitigation help. You have heard today mitigation, mitigation, mitigation. If we can get our Senators to act on that bill, that is going to go a long way toward helping provide local communities with the funds and the expedited manner in which to provide this mitigation. So we are going to keep working on that and I appreciate all FEMA did to work with us in making that bill work and getting it through the House. We will have to talk to the Senate now and see what we can do.
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    Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Chairman Fowler.
    The Chair now recognizes Mr. Lee Taylor for his questions—Lee Terry.
    Mr. TERRY. Thank you. I yield back my time. I had one question that has already been asked, so if I develop another one, I will submit it to them.
    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Terry.
    I do want to say that—and we will recognize Ms. Brown, but I do want to say before I turn the gavel back over to Chairman Fowler that airplanes to Washington, D.C. do not wait and so I am going to excuse myself so I can catch the plane and turn the gavel back over to Chairman Fowler.
    Before I do, I want to be ultimately fair. Mr. Suiter, if you have anything else you would like to add for the record regarding any questions I may have asked or if you are satisfied with my just receiving your written report—I want to give you every chance in the world to speak on the record should you wish to add anything.
    Mr. SUITER. Why don't we just respond for the record, to be sure that you catch your plane.
    The Inspector General issue in Idaho was a serious one. The Inspector General is an independent agency, while they are a part of FEMA. They respond to anonymous information and things like that, independent of what our director did. Our director was very distressed about that particular activity. Quite frankly I did not know that the investigation was over. I am glad to hear that. You have got a great state out there, we work with John Cline and the other people that are involved and we appreciate it.
    That was not, however, a FEMA-driven issue, or at least it was not Director Witt's driven issue in that it was the Inspector General.
    And you are always fair.
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    Ms. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much. I appreciate your testimony very much and at this time, I would like to turn the gavel back over to the Chairman. Thank you.
    Mr. SUITER. Thank you.
    Ms. FOWLER. Thank you, and I would like to call upon Congressman Corrine Brown for questions she may have.
    Ms. BROWN. Thank you. First of all, let me just say that FEMA, under Director Witt gets an A, it is 100 percent improvement over past administrations.
    Mr. SUITER. Thank you.
    Ms. BROWN. And I want to put that on the record.
    Mr. SUITER. Thank you. On behalf of James Lee Witt, thank you.
    Ms. BROWN. And I do want to give you all an opportunity to clear up a few things. During the first panel, Congressman Terry asked about the role of the Federal Government in responding to fires of this magnitude. I would like to bring this up again to hear what FEMA has to say on this.
    Mr. COPENHAVER. Well, I guess you have to start by saying that there have been very few fires of this magnitude. So in terms of the processes and the procedures, a fire like the one that occurred last summer in Florida represents something that very few, if any of us, have ever seen before. And as such, it really represents an opportunity to go back and see what we can do better afterwards, which I think is the purpose of much of what we are discussing here today. And we will frankly admit to you that there are many things that came out as a result of those fires that we see we can improve upon, both from a FEMA perspective and also our coordination with other Federal agencies and with state and local entities.
    But we feel that if you look from the Florida wildfires in 1998 to the ones that occurred here in 1999, you will see improvement. You will see that we are communicating better, you will see that we are coordinating better. And what we hope to do as a result of these hearings here today and also a lot of the work that has been done in terms of addressing potential changes to the fire suppression grant policy, that we have incorporated the painful lessons that we learned last summer, in order to make sure that we are better prepared should fires break out in Florida or in any other state representing the kind of geography that is here in Florida again.
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    Ms. BROWN. Thank you.
    Mr. Suiter, can you provide more details on the Federal role and how you responded to assisting the state and local government?
    Mr. SUITER. Yes. First of all, when the event occurs, the state, working with the local government, who always owns that disaster in Oklahoma City or anywhere else—Chief Gary in Oklahoma City owned that——
    Ms. BROWN. So you are saying the primary responsibility lies with the local and state government?
    Mr. SUITER. They own that disaster, local government does. State assistance—I assume that Florida is the same, certainly in my own state of Tennessee, is supplemental to that state government—the state government assistance is supplemental to the local government, even when state assets are brought into town. I know of no provision in Tennessee state law that ever allows for a Governor to take over the local government, and certainly not in the cases of a natural disaster such as this.
    Federal assistance is always based upon the condition that the Governor has determined what the situation is in his state and he certified two or three different things in a letter, ''I certify—'', ''I, Governor Jeb Bush, certify,'' ''I, Governor Don Sundquist, certify that this circumstance is beyond my capacity to respond and recover.'' That is one thing he certifies. The second thing he certifies is that he will pick up what is statutorily imposed upon us as the non-Federal share, that is 25 percent of the assistance that goes to individuals, it is 25 percent of the public assistance program, and 25 percent of building group parks and mobile homes. He certifies that he will provide that, he is certifying that to the President of the United States.
    We then take that, this man here and his staff take that and do an evaluation on it. And it is quick, it is very quick, usually we do it with the state together. Then it comes to my desk in Washington, based on whatever their recommendation is, and then the Federal agencies and myself sit down and look at it and we then take whatever that report has been and make a recommendation through Director Witt to the President about what the impact of this is and why this assistance is needed.
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    Once the President declares a major disaster, he will appoint a Federal coordinating officer, in this case it was Paul Fay sitting behind me. The state appoints a state coordinating officer, who in this case is Joe Myers. And the Federal coordinating officer and the state coordinating officer are empowered by the President and by the Governor to move, utilize any Federally owned resource that might be required, with or without reimbursement. Now we do reimburse Federal agencies in this process, to whatever it might be to respond to and to recover from that particular event, always in coordination with whoever is the local official in charge. If the local official does not want it done, it will not be done, if we are talking about locally owned resources. He is in charge of that, he or she is in charge of that particular activity. And that is the way it goes back and forth.
    And quite frankly—and I do not want to sound overly defensive of it, it is a system that has been improved since Hurricane Andrew, thanks to James Lee Witt. Not only have the Federal systems improved, but so have the state systems around the country improved. I would submit to you that before Joe Myers hit this state, there were big problems in this state too, and lots of lessons were learned in that process.
    Again, I taught it all to him when I was the Director in Tennessee, but nonetheless, that is the type of leadership that happens. But Joe has never taken away any local responsibility and we are not in the business of assuming local responsibility.
    Sorry for the long answer.
    Ms. BROWN. Thank you very much.
    Chairman, a couple of things. One, I was asked by some of the people in the audience how could they participate and I indicated that they have 30 days from this date to put any written responses into the Committee. So if anyone from the public wants to respond, they can.
    Ms. FOWLER. Yes, I am going to make that statement.
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    Ms. BROWN. Because I do have a question really for the state, because when I was a state legislator, I remember that we funded the system so that we would have common communication and I would like to know what happened to that, that happened in the eighties, in preparation for this kind of disaster, I think the late eighties. So I would like to know what happened to those funds and why we did not implement that system at this time.
    Ms. FOWLER. Well, I know and some other members of the Subcommittee do have some other questions, so we would certainly like to submit them in writing and then include your response in the record, and for others too.
    And for members in the audience—because this was a hearing today just for the witnesses that we have officially called for it and we had members who flew down from Washington and as you know there are not many flights in and out of here now, but we are trying to use our airport as much as we can, so they are flying in and out, but they have got to get their plane to go back to Washington. But I do ask unanimous consent that the record be held open for 30 days so that additional statements and information may be included.
    Thank you. Without objection.
    Mr. Boyd, did you have a question?
    Mr. BOYD. No.
    Ms. FOWLER. I want to thank these witnesses before us. I know you all have done a lot of work in this area and we are going to continue to be working together. Unfortunately in this area of wildfires, I am afraid for the rest of this year, but we hope the rain will keep coming and that will help all of our lives, but we look forward to working with you, both down here and in Washington, and anything we can do from our level to help expedite the processes and make them work smoother and better, we are really anxious to do. So keep us informed on that too.
    Are there any other statements or questions from the Subcommittee?
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    [No response.]
    Ms. FOWLER. If not, the hearing is adjourned. Thank you so much.
    Mr. SUITER. Thank you, ma'am.
    [Whereupon, at 2:10 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]

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