February 13, 2019 / 8:42 PM / 6 months ago

U.S. emergency-management chief Brock Long to resign

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, said he would resign on Wednesday, after overseeing the government’s response to a string of record-breaking hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.

FILE PHOTO: FEMA Administrator Brock Long listens as U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on preparations for hurricane Florence at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Long was widely praised for his tenure at a time when the United States faced its most devastating stretch of natural disasters since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But his reputation took a hit last fall when the Department of Homeland Security determined he had inappropriately used government vehicles to commute between Washington and his home in North Carolina.

Two months after Long took over FEMA in June 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall in Texas and Hurricane Irma became one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record before slamming into Florida.

Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico and left the island’s 3.7 million residents without electricity. FEMA faced steep logistical hurdles as it delivered food and water from the mainland United States, but critics said it should have had more supplies already in place.

In December of that year, California recorded its largest wildfire ever.

The fall of 2018 brought another spate of devastating wildfires in California, along with major hurricanes in the Florida Panhandle and North and South Carolina.

FEMA responded to more than 220 declared disasters during Long’s tenure, he said in a statement.

Long is one of several Trump administration officials to face scrutiny over his use of government resources.

His job was complicated by President Donald Trump, who feuded with Puerto Rican leaders after Hurricane Maria and threatened to cut off disaster aid to California.

Most recently, Trump has weighed seizing disaster recovery funds earmarked for Puerto Rico to help pay for his signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Long said FEMA’s No. 2 official, Pete Gaynor, would take over on a temporary basis when he departs.

Reporting by Andy Sullivan; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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