Trump approves California disaster relief assistance after administration rejected it, reports say

Joanna Estrada
October 17, 2020

Newsom formally submitted a letter to the White House and FEMA on September 28 asking for such a declaration and citing the fact that five of the six largest fires in California's recorded history have taken place this year.

In a September 28 letter, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he expects the infrastructure damage from the fires in question - the Valley Fire in San Diego, the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County, the Slater Fire in Siskiyou County, the Oak Fire in Mendocino County, the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles, and the Creek Fire - will surpass $US229 ($323) million.

Brian Ferguson of the governor's Office of Emergency Services could not provide a reason for the federal government's denial.

California did not ask for a specific dollar amount because damage estimates are not completed, Ferguson told the Los Angeles Times.

In fact, more than half of California's forests fall under federal management yet the state spends more than the U.S. Forest Service does on managing those lands to reduce wildfire risk.

A major disaster declaration allows for cost-sharing for damage, cleanup and rebuilding between the state and federal government.

There was a clash of views between the Trump administration and California on the state's handling of wildfires. "But we feel our case for those requirements has been met".

"The longer it takes for California and its communities to recover, the more severe, devastating, and irreversible the economic impacts will be", Newsom wrote.

Wildfires in California have burned a record-breaking 4 million acres in 2020, with many still burning.

He added, "Californians are exhausted".

"Thus far, these fires have scorched more than 1,887,932 acres, destroyed 3,368 structures, including almost 1,000 homes, and damaged an additional 232 structures", Newsom wrote in the letter.

Many residents lost homes and property that was uninsured.

The governor also noted the cash-strapped nature of the state, which is projecting a pandemic-induced $54.3-billion deficit this fiscal year.

A FEMA spokesperson also told Fox News earlier in the day Friday that the request had been denied because "damage assessments FEMA conducted" determined that the federal government's assistance wasn't necessary.

Ferguson is hopeful too that FEMA will reverse course and just approve the decision.

In a statement Friday, deputy press secretary Judd Deere highlighted other areas the federal government had provided assistance to California during its historic fire season. According to the governor's office, almost 1,000 California homes were destroyed by the unprecedented fires, which scientists said were fueled by the human-caused climate crisis. PG&E equipment is being examined in connection with the Zogg Fire in Northern California, and Southern California Edison equipment is under scrutiny in the Bobcat Fire near Los Angeles.

Smoke from the huge Creek Fire burning since September 4 in the central part of the state was still affecting air quality as far south as Los Angeles, the National Weather Service said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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