Trump administration denies California relief for 6 fires

Yolanda Curtis
October 17, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday afternoon that the President has approved California's request for a Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the state's emergency response to wildfires across the state and support impacted residents in Siskiyou, Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.

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

Newsom, a Democrat, officially requested the federal relief in a September 28 letter warning that "the longer it takes for California and its communities to recover, the more severe, devastating, and irreversible the economic impacts will be".

Ferguson on Thursday could not provide a reason for the federal governments denial.

California asked for federal assistance in recovering from fires that have ravaged almost 2 million acres - the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera, the Valley Fire in San Diego, San Bernardino's El Dorado Fire, the Slater Fire in Siskiyou, the Oak Fire in Mendocino, and the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles.

Trump's administration and the Democratic-led Golden State have clashed several times. At least one person died fighting the El Dorado Fire.

All electricity was expected to be restored by late Friday, PG&E said.

Meanwhile, winds in the Sierra Nevada foothills and San Francisco Bay Area topped 55 miles per hour (89 kph), and humidity levels plummeted, making for critical fire conditions, said Scott Strenfel, the utility's senior meteorologist.

Kathleen Collins has had to evacuate her home in the mountains of Napa County four times over the past five years because of fires.

Its all very stressful. 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.

Among the fires listed in the now-approved aid application is the Creek Fire, which erupted in the Sierra Nevada on September 4 and is 60% contained after burning 850 homes and more than 537 square miles (1,391 square kilometers) in Fresno and Madera counties.

Major investments include augmenting the CAL FIRE air fleet with new FIREHAWK S-70i helicopters and C-130 airplanes, and bolstering firefighting surge capacity and pre-positioning capabilities.

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. 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.

The weather service issued heat advisories through Friday, with temperatures expected to reach triple digits in many parts of the state. CAL FIRE completed the last of its 35 emergency fuels management projects in May, making 90,000 acres safer ahead of wildfire season and protecting 200 vulnerable communities. It was about 50% contained.

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