Trump Administration Reverses Decision, Approves California’s Request for Wildfire Aid

FILE PHOTO: Los Angeles County firefighters keep watch on the Bobcat Fire as it burns through the night in Juniper Hills, California, U.S. September 19, 2020. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

U.S. President Donald Trump approved California’s request for additional wildfire recovery relief, reversing his administration’s earlier denial after intervention from the state’s governor and a key Republican lawmaker.

In an email, White House spokesman Judd Deere said California Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, had “presented a convincing case” for approval of the relief.

Newsom, in a press release, said he was “grateful for (Trump’s) quick response.” He had asked the president in September to declare a major disaster in seven counties affected by blazes that ignited earlier that month.

Trump had issued a major disaster declaration for some parts of the state in August, a move that provides federal assistance for individuals, infrastructure and both emergency and permanent work.

But several more major fires cropped up across the state the following month, prompting the state’s subsequent request. Some 4.1 million acres have burned in California this year, shattering a previous record and causing $229 million of damage.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said blazes that ignited in September were not severe enough to be declared a “major disaster.”

Trump’s administration and the Democratic-led Golden State have clashed several times.

Trump has repeatedly blamed deadly wildfires on a failure by California to clear its forests of dead trees and debris and threatened to withhold federal assistance.

“They have massive fires again in California,” Trump said at a campaign rally in August. “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”

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

SOURCE: Reuters, Nichola Groom

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