Trump administration rejects California fires disaster declaration

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The Trump administration has rejected a disaster declaration request over rampant wildfires that scorched California last month. A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CA OES) confirmed the development to CBS News.

“Confirming that the request for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration for early September fires has been denied by the federal administration,” Brian Ferguson said. “The state plans to appeal the decision and believes we have a strong case that California’s request meets the federal requirements for approval. Meantime, Cal OES continues to aggressively pursue other available avenues for reimbursement/support to help individuals and communities impacted by these fires rebuild and recover.”

The disaster declaration request was issued September 28. In it, Federal Emergency Management Agency Regional Administrator Robert J. Fenton Jr asked that the White House declare “a major disaster in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Siskiyou counties.”

“The severity and magnitude of these fires continue to cause significant impacts to the state and to the affected, local jurisdictions, such that recovery efforts remain beyond the state’s capabilities,” the request reads in part.

The Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties is one of the largest in state history, having burned more than 340,000 acres, while the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles County has consumed more than 115,000 acres. Other fires mentioned in the request include the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County, which has burned more than 22,000 acres; the Valley Fire in San Diego County, which has burned more than 16,000 acres; the Oak Fire in Mendocino County, and the Slater Fire in Siskiyou County, which has burned more than 156,000 acres.  

It’s unclear why the Trump administration denied the disaster declaration request. In the past, the president has been critical of California’s response to wildfires and has blamed the recent increase in incidents on poor forest management, even though many forests in California are federally managed.

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