Trump reverses course, approves emergency aid for Calif. wildfires

Oct. 16 (UPI) — President Donald Trump reversed course Friday and approved hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency aid for the state of California for recent wildfires that have scorched the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Friday afternoon that after a midday phone call, the president had granted an emergency declaration to make funding available for counties burned by the Creek Fire and five others.

Newsom said he had “just got off the phone” with the president who had approved California’s major disaster declaration request. “Grateful for his quick response,” the Democratic governor tweeted.

Earlier in the day, Trump had declined to approve the request, sent by Newsom on Sept. 28 to cover damage from the most recent fires in northern California.

In the letter, Newsom thanked the president for emergency aid received through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for wildfires in August. He also thanked the president for visiting the state last month to tour the damage.

California has suffered this year from the most extreme fire season in the state’s recorded history. More than 8,500 fires have started in an exceptionally dry and windy season, burning more than 4.1 acres and destroying more than 9,200 structures and killing at least 31 people.

But the worst fires have taken place in northern California in September, where the Glass Fire, Creek Fire and others have burned nearly 2 million acres, destroyed more than 3,000 structures, and killed at least three people.

Newsom’s appeal said the state was, “experiencing another siege of fires from early September, which continue to devastate communities throughout the state.” The state’s capabilities to manage the devastation were tapped out, Newsom said.

Initially, FEMA’s press secretary, Lizzie Litzow, said in a statement Friday that the agency determined “the early September fires were not of such severity and magnitude to exceed the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and other responding federal agencies.”

But Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said the state couldn’t know right away how many hundreds of millions of dollars in damage had been done.

“The true cost won’t be known for months or years afterward,” Furguson said.

Trump’s decision may have helped embattled Republican lawmakers facing challenging elections on Nov. 3.

“Californians have been devastated by this year’s fires, and now, with [the president] set to declare a federal disaster, we are going to get the assistance needed to rebuild and repair,” tweeted GOP House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. “Thank you Mr. President.”

“The Presidential Disaster Declaration is imminent and help is on the way,” tweeted Repubilcan U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents a northern California district that includes Yosemite National Park. “Thank you, Mr. President…Our voices were heard and our prayers were answered.”

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