Opinion: FEMA sends conflicting message to people living in RVs

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By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report

A story today from California noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is ordering people who lost their homes in the California wildfires to leave their property. They can no longer live in an RV next to their fire-damaged or destroyed homes.

And FEMA is enforcing this order by threatening to withhold federal emergency funds from any local government entity that allows people to live in an RV.

According to an article appearing in the Press Democrat, David Samaniego, the FEMA official in charge of the agency’s wildfire response, told local authorities Jan. 24 that allowing the RVs into Paradise jeopardized public health and safety.

I would remind Mr. Samaniego that RVs come with their own toilets. So, how is public health jeopardized by having people live in them. In fact, he may not be aware of the fact that at least one million families live full-time in their RVs every day.

Councilwoman Melissa Schuster said the Paradise City Council passed the ordinance in December allowing residents to live in RVs out of desperation. Thousands of residents remain without long-term temporary housing while the region tries to rebuild.

In what has become a perfect example of government ineptitude, FEMA actually purchased hundreds of RVs for people to live in as emergency shelters on temporary basis while their homes were rebuilt.

What does FEMA want displaced homeowners to do now?  Take their FEMA-issued RVs and go on a one- or two-month vacation?

Maybe Mr. Samaniego doesn’t realize that RVs are actually capable of being moved, and rather quickly at that. Moving an RV is faster than moving a manufactured home, and infinitely faster than getting anything of significance accomplished in Washington.

What is preventing someone with knowledge and organization skills from going neighborhood to neighborhood with a schedule as to when each area will be cleaned and rendered safe?

Then, the RV owners could stay on their property, move for a day or two to allow the cleanup to occur, and come right back while their new homes are being built. They don’t have to leave what is left of their possessions susceptible to theft by government contractors or others who seize upon the opportunity to explore the unsecured property.

I would argue that having people live in RVs in damaged neighborhoods does more to prevent looting and improve public safety than having police officers roll past in a squad car a few times a day.

In the Press Democrat article, Schuster said she hired a contractor to clear her debris rather than waiting for government-supported crews to get to her property. Does that surprise anyone? How many years did it take for FEMA to clean up the mess after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans?

Schuster said her property is mostly cleared and she and her husband are just awaiting inspection and certification, so she’s hopeful they won’t have to leave.

The article noted that it takes about two days to clear debris from a lot, but up two weeks for a government employee with a clipboard to visit the area, look to ensure the land was cleared of debris, and certify the property safe.

Here is an idea. Have government inspectors ride in the dump trucks removing debris from the area.

While someone with a real job works to clean up the area, Mr. Clipboard can begin writing up citations and environmental impact orders to further disrupt the lives of homeowners once the land has been cleared.

Why are people so angry and distrustful of government?

You don’t have to look far to find examples of inefficiency, financial waste, abuse of power and nonsense policies like these that make things easier for government officials to handle, but much more difficult for people impacted by tragedies to overcome.

Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber

A journalist who has covered the recreation vehicle industry since January 2000, Greg Gerber founded RV Daily Report on April Fool's Day in 2009. He also serves as the editor of the publication and website. As an Eagle Scout, he has enjoyed camping for decades and has visited every state except Hawaii. A DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three young women, he has two grandchildren as well. He currently splits his time between Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. Greg can be reached at editor@rvdailyreport.com.

Leave a Comment

  • toadred says:

    Do not consider the government to be one inept department. Do not blame all Federal employees to be that inept. What we need to do is get rid of the President who is the problem child in this picture.

    • Jim says:

      Liberal, huh toad? How bout you give me your Tax savings first before you bash our President…maybe your 401K profit over the last 2 years…are you working? Unemployment is low, you can find a job.

  • Sam says:

    You really do not address the fact that the property is considered unsafe! Having RVs on unsafe land should never be allowed. It was a mistake allowing them to do it in the first place.
    A better alternative would be to provide a place near Paradise where the RVs could be parked and used safely.

  • Andy says:

    Sorry, Greg, but I think you’re going off half-cocked. The government isn’t saying people can’t live in their FEMA-provided trailers, but that those trailers can’t stay on the burnt-out areas that have to be cleared. And I don’t believe it’s a matter of being in the way of reconstruction, but of the toxicity of air, soil and water that results when a whole community burns down (no worry about looting there!), with all of its plastics, formaldehydes, petroleum products of various sorts, etc. etc.

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