California Gov. Says Donald Trump Approved California's Wildfire Disaster Declaration Request
In an abrupt reversal, President Donald Trump approved California's wildfire disaster declaration request, giving the state much-needed help to deal with the breaking wildfires, but the administration had initially rejected the request. California Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed this on Friday.
Newsom released a statement Friday after getting off the phone with Trump and announced that the president had approved the state's Major Disaster Declaration request. "Grateful for his quick response," he added.
Earlier this week, the White House attributed its decision to reject California's request for a presidential major disaster declaration to a lack of relevant data. The wildfires have claimed 31 lives and destroyed over 9,200 structures.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said the governor, along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, offered a convincing case in addition to an on-the-ground perspective for considering, persuading the president to approve the declaration. Newsom, a Democrat, urged the federal government to provide financial aid in a Sept. 28 letter to the administration, describing the wildfires' effect.
Pointing out that the infrastructure damage exceeds $229 million, Newsom wrote that federal assistance is critical in enabling the state and its communities' physical and economic recovery. He went on to explain that the longer it will take for the state and its communities to recover, the more severe, irreversible, and devastating the impact of the wildfires will be on the economy.
A White House news release suggests Trump had approved California's initial request for a disaster declaration for the coronavirus pandemic back in March. Since the fire season began, over 8,500 wildfires have destroyed more than 4.1 million acres across the state, Cal Fire revealed in a press release on Thursday.
The latest disaster declaration includes the Creek Fire, which can be touted as the largest wildfire in California's history, which destroyed 341,722 acres across Fresno and Madera counties. Aside from that, it includes the Bobcat Fire, which burned 115,796 acres in Los Angeles County, as well as the El Dorado Fire, which was caused by a gender reveal party in San Bernardino County on Labor Day weekend.
California had planned to appeal a denial from the Trump administration and believed it had a strong case. Responding on Twitter to a New York Times article about the administration's refusal, Newsom said they would appeal. There has been finger-pointing between the state and the Trump administration over wildfires for quite some time now.
Newsom says the severity of the wildfire is caused by global warming, but Trump, on the other hand, suggests they are a result of the state's improper forest management. The president has been critical of California’s handling of the fires for a long time and has blamed the state's lack of management of its forest for the wildfires.