President Biden approves emergency federal wildland fire relief for four northern California counties
President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed and approved a California Disaster Emergency Declaration on the state’s wildfire situation, granting federal assistance to the state’s wildfire recovery efforts and the locality dating from mid-July of this year.
Biden’s aid order came less than 24 hours after Governor Gavin Newsom initially called for a presidential declaration of major disaster. In its request, Newsom requested additional assistance with state and regional wildfire response and recovery in 8 northern California counties including Lassen, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta , Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity. Specifically, this covers 5 fires, including the Dixie Fire, the second largest in state history that also destroyed the town of Greenville.
“These forest fires justify accelerated assistance,” said the governor in his request to the president. “They are actively burning, limiting the ability of officials to perform a full damage assessment. From what we already know, however, these fires have affected several communities, some with large vulnerable and elderly populations. Thousands of residents have been evacuated; cities, communities and entire economies have been affected; more than 1,600 structures have already been reported as destroyed, including almost 1,000 houses (numbers expected to increase as areas become accessible and safe to assess); and several watersheds are susceptible to contamination with toxic runoff, endangering community water supplies, agriculture and wildlife.
“We are deploying all the tools available to us to keep communities safe as California battles these catastrophic forest fires triggered by the impacts of climate change. Even though the fires continue to burn, we are working hard to put in place assistance programs for those affected to help them recover from these devastating fires. “
Newsom also noted that the requested assistance will go, among other things, to housing assistance, food aid, counseling, medical services and legal services for fire victims and evacuees. The demand would also increase forest fire mitigation efforts in the future, as well as state, local and tribal emergency response and recovery costs, including assistance to the 13,712 struggling first responders. currently against the many forest fires across the state.
However, only 4 of the 8 requested counties were covered by the approval of the president’s request on Tuesday: Lassen, Nevada, Placer and Pumas. Biden also noted that federal assistance will include, but is not limited to, “grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover losses of uninsured property, and other programs to help individuals and business owners to recover “from the wildfire. State, local and tribal governments will also receive direct federal assistance in the four counties.
Emergency aid for four of the eight counties requested
As the governor’s office noted, federal emergency aid is only going to half of the counties requested, as federal officials are unable to account for damage from 3 of the 5 wildfires. requested so far, as they are still largely uncontrolled. . Only counties affected by the Dixie and River fires, both of which are currently contained, will receive assistance starting Tuesday, with state officials hoping for more in the future.
“California is grateful for President Biden’s early approval of our request and the ongoing work of our heroic firefighters and emergency responders to protect communities in Northern California,” Governor Newsom said Tuesday in a statement. communicated. “This statement makes vital resources available as we continue to work closely with local, state and federal partners to meet the challenge of these catastrophic wildfires and support communities in their recovery. “
As of Wednesday, the full amount of federal aid earmarked for California via the president’s declaration of emergency disaster was not known due to aid distribution on demand.
“Disaster funding is usually not limited to a certain amount, especially in an emergency,” explained Michael Carver, an aid worker who has been involved with many relief projects in the United States in a interview with the Globe. “FEMA has not donated any money for, say, hurricane relief efforts because the need continues to be felt. And you can’t cap aid in most situations because this is an emergency and an urgent need. “
“And here, with the governor’s request, you know the state needs more emergency aid, so they asked for and received it. Trump also approved the same kind of wildfire aid last year, but only after [Congressman] Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) helped convince him.
Federal aid is expected to be ceded soon in the four named counties in northern California.