Trump administration denies California relief for 6 fires

  • Trump administration denies California relief for 6 fires

Trump administration denies California relief for 6 fires

After a late September request to the White House from Governor Gavin Newsom for a federal major disaster declaration in the wake of six of California's recent wildfires, FEMA and the president have responded with a big NO.

"The state plans to appeal the decision and believes we have a strong case that California's request meets the federal requirements for approval", says Brian Ferguson from the governor's Office of Emergency Services, speaking to the Associated Press.

The rejection, which comes after FEMA granted other fire-related relief to California in August, raises questions about the administration's motive, given President Trump's frequent public sparring with California officials over the wildfires.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom penned a letter to President Donald Trump on September 28 seeking the disaster declaration for several blazes, including the Creek Fire, the largest wildfire in the state's history, which has burned at least 341,722 acres across Fresno and Madera counties, as well as the Bobcat Fire, which has burned at least 115,796 acres in the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County. The infrastructure damage estimates exceed $229 million, he said.

FEMA has previously turned down requests from other states on a similar rationale as the one provided to California - including an application in June from Texas for $190 million in aid for tornado damage dating from past year.

During a visit to California for a round table discussion on wildfires in September, Trump denied the role of climate change in wildfires, despite pushback from Newsom. "Just watch", and "I don't think science knows, actually".

The federal government has already given California financial assistance for the cleanup effort following the August lightning fires.

While experts have said that drought and heatwaves brought on by climate change, as well as the expansion of housing tracts into fire areas, are the main causes of what has been an extremely active wildfire season, Trump has blamed California's "forest management". "And they can explode".

Some 60% of California's forested lands - or 33 million acres - are publicly owned, according to the USDA. Five of the six largest wildfires in state history have broken out since August.