Trump administration rejects CA request for financial help with wildfires

Trump's rejection could leave California struggling to cope with the cost, despite the fact the federal government controls 57% of California's forested lands. staff KABC logo
Friday, October 16, 2020
Trump administration rejects CA request for wildfire help
The Trump administration has rejected California's request for federal assistance following the state's worst wildfire season in history.

The Trump administration has rejected California's request for federal financial assistance during the state's worst wildfire season in history.

California is filing an appeal. But Trump's rejection could leave California struggling to cope with the cost, despite the fact the federal government controls 57% of California's forested lands.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has estimated potential federal assistance at $346 million, including $200 million for the Creek Fire alone.

RELATED: President Trump visits California to discuss wildfires

Cal Fire on Thursday said there are over 9,000 firefighters battling 12 major and eight other large wildfires. The fires have consumed 4.1 million acres.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere released the following statement:

"This summer, President Trump quickly approved wildfire relief for the State of California that was supported by damage estimates. In fact, this week the President made additional disaster assistance available to California by authorizing an increase in the level of Federal funding to 100% for debris removal and emergency protective measures undertaken as a result of the wildfires, beginning August 14, 2020, and continuing. The more recent and separate California submission was not supported by the relevant data that States must provide for approval and the President concurred with the FEMA Administrator's recommendation."

California did not ask for a specific dollar amount because damage estimates are not completed, Brian Ferguson, with the governor's Office of Emergency Services. told the Los Angeles Times.

Federal major disaster declarations allow for cost-sharing for damage, cleanup and rebuilding between the state and federal governments. They also activate relief programs led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Denials of relief are rare and Newsom has previously praised the Trump administration for approving aid related to the fires and California's struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.

No major new fires were reported statewide early Friday, but warnings of dangerously hot, dry and gusty conditions that can fan fires were expected to remain in effect until the evening.

RELATED: Red flag warning issued for LA, Orange, Ventura counties amid heat wave, historic wildfire season

A red flag warning signifying a high risk of wildfire is in effect in parts of L.A., Orange and Ventura counties Friday amid dangerous conditions.

Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists have said climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable.

Thousands of Northern California residents remained without electricity Friday after a utility cut off service to prevent powerful winds from damaging equipment and sparking wildfires amid a fall heat wave.

Power restorations began Thursday afternoon and by evening, Pacific Gas and Electric said about 30,000 customers were still in the dark - down from about 45,000 the previous night.

All electricity was expected to be restored by late Friday after the second round of hot, dry gusts this week moved through the region and raised the risk of fires, PG&E said.

RELATED: California sets record after millions of acres burned so far this year

It has been a disastrous wildfire season in California, with more than 8,500 blazes scorching land. Thirty-one people have died and some 9,200 buildings have been destroyed.

The blaze that ravaged areas of Napa and Sonoma counties was contained Wednesday after destroying more than 1,500 homes and other buildings.

People have been buying generators, electrical cords, flashlights, batteries, gas cans and other supplies to help them deal with the latest outage, expected to last through Friday evening, Collins said.

RELATED: What is causing California's destructive wildfires?

The utility better targeted outages this time after it was criticized in 2019 for cutting power to about 800,000 customers and leaving about 2 million people in the dark for days.

Most of this year's fires have occurred since mid-August, when an unusual siege of thousands of lightning strikes ignited huge blazes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.