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Disaster declaration could help Washington County

September 02, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Although Washington County was largely spared from Hurricane Irene damage last weekend, it will be included in an emergency declaration for Maryland counties affected by the storm.

Kevin Lewis, the county's director of Emergency Services, said the county helped other parts of the state cope with the hurricane.

Seven firefighters from Funkstown and Hancock helped Ocean City firefighters in Wicomico County from Saturday to Monday.

And a three-person, swift-water rescue team with Washington County's Special Operations unit went to Baltimore County, then was called to help in Cecil County on Sunday, Lewis said.

Having Washington County part of the disaster declaration will make the county indirectly eligible for disaster aid reimbursement, he said.

The county has estimated that its Ocean City assistance cost about $13,000 to $14,000.

The cost of helping Baltimore and Cecil counties hasn't been calculated, but is expected to be less than $20,000, Lewis said.

In addition to the 10 people dispatched to those areas, the cost estimates include two vehicles, a boat, a trailer and four people who filled in locally.

One was a part-timer for Washington County Special Operations. The other three were Hagerstown firefighters who took over the shifts of the firefighters deployed through Special Operations.

It also covers the equipment for the 11 people who were deployed, according to a Washington County summary.

Plans to share the Washington County crews were made through the Maryland Emergency Management Agency a few days before the storm, as the hurricane's path became clear, Lewis said.

On Saturday, the state of Maryland was given an emergency declaration, covering eight counties and Baltimore City, for sheltering and advance evacuations, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley's office.

On Monday night, O'Malley announced that 14 other counties were added to the declaration. Washington County was one of them.

Lewis said Thursday that disaster reimbursement guidelines require that a county reach a certain dollar amount of damage, based on population, before it's eligible for aid.

Washington County would need to reach about $426,000 worth of damage, he said.

Individually, Washington County falls well short of that level, but still could recoup costs if Wicomico County reaches its minimum level for receiving disaster aid, Lewis said.

In the same way, Washington County also could recover the costs associated with lending its swift-water team, although it wasn't clear on Thursday if that would be based on cost-of-damage levels in Baltimore or Cecil counties.

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