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The Trump administration blocks California forest fire aid



The Trump administration has denied California’s disaster relief application to clean up the damage from six recent fires across the state, including the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles County, the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County and the Creek Fire, one of the largest that continues to burn in Fresno and Madera counties.

The decision came late Wednesday or early Thursday when the government turned down Governor Gavin Newsom’s request for a presidential disaster declaration, said Brian Ferguson, assistant director of crisis communications and media relations for the governor̵

7;s Office of Emergency Services.

Ferguson failed to provide a reason for the federal government’s rejection.

President Trump has previously threatened to withhold US dollars of relief supplies, including in 2019, unless state officials “unite, which is unlikely”.

A major disaster declaration enables the cost of damage, clean-up work and reconstruction to be shared between the state and the federal government. It also activates federal programs run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

California did not ask for a specific dollar amount because the damage estimates were incomplete, Ferguson said.

“The real costs won’t be known for months or years,” he said.

He added, “What the state is looking for is the highest level of federal support that requires the highest bars to be released. However, we believe that our argument for these requirements has been met. “

Such aid could easily reach hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Ferguson.

Outside of the southern California fires, the state is also seeking help with the Oak Fire in Mendocino County and the Slater Fire in Siskiyou County.

Newsom officially filed a letter to the White House and FEMA on Sept. 28, requesting such a statement, citing the fact that five of the six largest fires in California history occurred that year.

The largest is the August Complex fire, which began on August 16 and burned just over 1 million acres in seven counties of northern California by October 15 and was 77% contained.

Newsom also said funds would be used to rebuild public infrastructure, miles of roads, parks, signs and fire bunkers.

“Many of the counties affected by these forest fires are still recovering from previous devastating forest fires, storms and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Newsom wrote.

He added, “The Californians are exhausted.”

Many residents lost homes and property that was not insured. Newsom said 959 homes were destroyed by fire and 90 more damaged on Sept. 28, for an estimated value of $ 264,289,200.

The governor also pointed to the state’s liquidity squeeze, which is forecasting a pandemic-caused deficit of $ 54.3 billion this fiscal year.

Rejection of the declaration is likely to result in a federal appeal by the state.

Ferguson also hopes FEMA will reverse course and only approve the decision.

In February, the federal government agreed to repay California more than $ 170 million to repair the Oroville Dam overflow. The government has allocated a total of $ 562.5 million for the project.

California had previously successfully filed for a federal government declaration for two lightning-induced fires, including the complex fire, in August.

Newsom is also likely to seek another disaster statement for the Sonoma County Glass Fire and Shasta County’s Zogg Fire, Ferguson said. The Zogg fire was extinguished on Tuesday while 97% of the glass fire is contained.

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