After a late September request to the White House from Governor Gavin Newsom for a federal major disaster declaration in the wake of six of California's recent wildfires, FEMA and the president responded with a big NO.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a decision Thursday denying a major disaster declaration for six wildfires across the state, saying that damage from the six blazes didn't meet a threshold of severity for the declaration. As the Chronicle reports, President Trump — who has previously okayed disaster aid for California fires — apparently agreed with FEMA's assessment (or directed it). We all know that there's no floor for how low Trump will go to play politics and thumb his nose at Democratic strongholds where is not well liked.
Retweeting the New York Times coverage of this rare refusal Friday morning, Newsom tweeted simply, "We're appealing this."
"The state plans to appeal the decision and believes we have a strong case that California’s request meets the federal requirements for approval," says Brian Ferguson from the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, speaking to the Associated Press.
Update: Even without an appeal, on Friday afternoon, the Trump administration reversed itself as it so often does and now this new influx of federal money will be on its way.
Newsom estimates that infrastructure damage from the fires may exceed $229 million, and besides that, the majority of the land scorched in the largest of California's fires is federal land, in national forests and parks. This reality runs contrary to Trump's favorite talking point about the fires which is that the state wouldn't have this pesky wildfire problem if it did proper "forest management."
Newsom tried to explain the issue about federal land to Trump with an extremely simple, almost childlike graph that was handed out when he briefly touched down in Sacramento last month. Also, people in the room tried to convince Trump that climate change was a major factor in the severity of the fires and he responded with "It'll get cooler. Just watch," and "I don't think science knows, actually."
This year's horrific fire season has already burned more than 6,400 square miles of the state of California in more than 8,500 different blazes, including four out of the five largest blazes in state history.
The federal government has already given California financial assistance for the cleanup effort following the August lightning fires. This latest request was for federal aid for statewide disaster mitigation, as well as public assistance for seven counties hit by smaller fires in September — the six fires under the declaration are the Valley Fire in San Diego County, the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County, the Slater Fire in Siskiyou County, the Oak Fire in Mendocino County, the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles County, and the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties.
The Creek Fire, burning since September 4, has burned 344,000 acres and remains only 60-percent contained. So far, damage estimates include 856 structures.
Photo: A melted Trump campaign sign in destroyed down of Berry Creek. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images