President Donald Trump has declared that a “major disaster” exists in California and has ordered federal funding to be made available to help fight wildfires that are ravaging communities up and down the drought-stricken west coast state.
“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” a White House statement said Sunday. “Federal funding also is available to State, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the wildfires and high winds in Shasta County.”
It added that “damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and additional counties may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed.”
California Governor Jerry Brown had asked the president for emergency aid.
Fire experts say there are now 17 major fires burning throughout California. Thousands of people have evacuated their homes, and eight people have died in the blazes. California’s famous Yosemite National Park has been closed for the past week due to dangerous conditions at what is normally the busiest time of year for tourism.
The major fire in northern California is known as the Carr Fire. Officials say after two weeks, it is 41 percent contained. They believe it started with sparks from the steel wheel of a trailer with a flat tire. The fire is believed to have destroyed some 533 square kilometers. Two firefighters have died while working to contain the flames.
Brown has called the past couple of years’ dramatic fire seasons “the new normal,” and California fire officials have warned that this year’s fire season is just getting started.