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Federal government denies emergency aid for Yarnell Fire

PHOENIX — The federal government denied a request for funds to alleviate the cost of the Yarnell Hill Fire, Gov. Jan Brewer said in a Friday release.

“I was hopeful the federal government would recognize the exceptionally devastating circumstances surrounding this tragedy, and support Arizona’s request,” she said.

Earlier this week, Brewer and President Barack Obama met in Phoenix to discuss the need for federal aid.

Approval would have brought long-term federal recovery programs to Yavapai County to help survivors and businesses that didn’t have adequate insurance. It also would allow a federal team to do flood prevention work.

“I am deeply troubled by the Obama Administration’s decision to deny much-needed recovery assistance in the wake of Arizona’s deadliest wildfire,” Brewer said. “This designation would have provided critical aid to citizens most impacted by the fire.”

In the letter to Brewer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the government would provide some funds to help cover fire management costs, but felt that state and local coffers should be enough to cover the damage caused to uninsured private residences.

Brewer described her meeting Tuesday with Obama as “cordial and positive all around.”

Brewer originally requested federal aid in June after the fire destroyed about 20 percent of the homes in Yarnell, Ariz. and claimed the lives of 19 hotshots based in Prescott, Ariz.

“The state of Arizona continues to mourn this tragedy, which took the lives of 19 of our bravest first responders,” said Brewer. “While no amount of federal assistance could ever ease the pain of such an extraordinary loss, it would have provided significant financial relief to Yarnell and Peeples Valley. Local residents are under enough emotional stress as they work to pick up the pieces and put their communities back together. Wondering how or if they will recover their losses should be the last of their worries.”

Brewer also said she was thankful for a call from Obama immediately after the fire and that Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a memorial service for the hotshots.

Brewer said she is reviewing appeal options. Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake said they were both disappointed with the decision and would discuss appeal options with Brewer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.