U.P. lawmakers back Duck Lake fire aid

The Michigan House today called on President Barack Obama to declare the Duck Lake wildfire in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a disaster area, and then state lawmakers approved $3.5 million to help pay for the three weeks of fire suppression activities in May and early June.

State Rep. Matt Huuki, House Resolution 294 sponsor, said the Duck Lake fire is the third largest in the state’s history, and national attention is past due.

“This wildfire destroyed over 21,000 acres, almost fifty homes, two businesses and dozens of smaller structures and campers,” said Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine. “For the sake of the area and residents affected by the fire, the president must swiftly and properly respond as Michigan leaders have already done.”

Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of disaster in Luce and Schoolcraft counties on May 25, 2012 to make all state resources available to fight the fire. In addition, the governor activated the National Guard to provide assistance. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with state and local partners, has fought in dangerous conditions against the wildfire to protect people, property, and Michigan’s natural resources at an estimated cost of $3.5 million.

“The DNR, local firefighters and all the additional organizations that pitched in to put the fire out did an excellent job, and there’s never any thought to the expense because everyone knows it just needs to get done, both quickly and safely,” said Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan. “This story could have become tragic but through preparedness, efficient response and some finally helpful weather, no one was seriously hurt.”

Huuki’s resolution requests that federal assistance is necessary to supplement state efforts and resources. The $3.5 million for the Duck Lake fire expenses are in Senate Bill 871, a supplemental appropriations measure that adjusts the state budget as the fiscal year ends. 

Huuki, McBroom, and state Rep. Frank Foster all voted for the additional state dollars.
“These reimbursement dollars for the emergency response in the Upper Peninsula lets the agencies and brave men and women who form our public safety net know that we stand in support with them,” said Foster, R-Pellston. “The state has stepped up to support the area and now we can only hope the president and federal government will do the same to help provide access to national disaster programs our local residents and businesses need.”

HR 294 was unanimously approved and has been transmitted to the president. SB 871 also was approved and returns to the Senate for concurrence before going to the governor.

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