FEMA approves disaster relief aid for CA wildfires following previous denial

Smoke from the Bobcat fire is visible cresting over the mountains surrounding the Santa Clarita Valley Sunday afternoon. September 20, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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After rejecting relief earlier this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved disaster relief aid Friday for six major California wildfires, including for the Bobcat Fire that burned more than 115,700 acres and resulted in weeks of unhealthy air quality in and around the Santa Clarita Valley.

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, had been working with other members of Congress to express the need to President Donald Trump for additional disaster assistance and impress upon the president the need for the agency to reverse the denial, according to a Garcia spokeswoman. 

“I have consistently advocated for increased federal assistance for California since the beginning of this devastating wildfire season,” Garcia said in an email. “I’m glad the president decided to reverse FEMA’s decision so Californians affected by these fires can get the relief they need, and wildfire relief will remain one of my top priorities in Congress.”

In late September, Garcia urged Trump to issue a major disaster declaration for wildfires addressed in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request. 

The call marked the second time the congressman reached out to the president regarding wildfires. In late August, he called for the declaration for wildfires that included the Lake Fire, which burned thousands of acres within the 25th Congressional District. One day later, Trump issued the declaration. 

In late September, Newsom wrote to Trump requesting emergency funds for fires from San Diego to Siskiyou counties, which, combined, have scorched 1.88 million acres, destroyed 3,368 structures, including 1,000 homes, and damaged hundreds more. The Bobcat Fire, which started Sept. 6 in and around the Angeles National Forest, has destroyed more than 100 structures and is considered among the largest ever recorded in L.A. County. 

Friday’s decision comes after FEMA responded to the state’s request Wednesday to deny aid due to the agency’s review of Newsom’s request, which showed that the damage from the fires was “not of such severity and magnitude as to to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies,” according to its letter addressed to Newsom. 

Hours after he had announced that the state was appealing the rejection, Newsom applauded the federal government’s change of heart in a statement. 

“Just got off the phone with President Trump who has approved our Major Disaster Declaration request. Grateful for his quick response,” he said. 

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