President Trump Grants California ‘Major Disaster’ Relief for Wildfires

California firefighters (Noah Berger / AFP / Getty)
Noah Berger / AFP / Getty
Newport Beach, CA

President Trump signed a ‘Major Disaster’ declaration on Saturday paving the way for California to receive fire mitigation funds and recovery grants and low-cost loans for Shasta County individuals and business owners.

California currently has 21 fires burning, with the Carr Fire near Redding now ranking as the state’s 15th largest in wildfire history after burning 154,524 acres, according to Cal Fire. With only 41 percent containment and the National Weather Service posting Red Flag warnings for fire and smoke through Sunday, the Carr Fire that began on July 23 is expected to continue to grow.

Cal Fire reported that a huge amount of resources have been concentrated on trying to get containment on the Carr Fire including 386 fire engines; 99 water tenders; 16 helicopters; 77 hand crews; 123 bulldozers; 4,674 personnel; and air tankers from throughout the state flying fire suppression missions.

The Carr Fire has destroyed 1,080 residences, 24 commercial structures and 500 outbuildings. Hundreds of structures have been damaged and 1,358 structures are currently at risk, according to the latest estimates from Cal Fire.

For the period from January 1 through July 29, 2018, there were 3,770 California wildfires. That was only about 10 percent higher than that the 3,440 last year and the 3,405-acre average for the last 5 years. But the number of acres burned this year at 292,455 is about 50 percent higher than the 219,369 acres burnt last year and more than double the 118,811-acre average for the last 5 years.

California has not been suffering record temperatures, but the minimum overnight temperatures for the month of July at 64.9 degrees were a record since the weather service began collecting accurate data in 1950 and about 5 degrees warmer than the average over 68 years, according to Wildfire Today.

Firefighters normally expect to count on wildfires “laying down” at night as the temperature sinks, allowing night shift personnel to “go direct” in constructing fire lines very close to the edge of the fires. But the heat forced many crews to drop back to safety zones in July and helplessly watch fires continue to rapidly expand.

Presidential Major Disaster 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.

Federal funding will also be available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide. The Federal Coordinating Officer for recovery operations in the affected area will be named will also have authority to recommend additional Major Disaster area designations for other counties including Lake, Mendocino and Napa if warranted by Federal Emergency Management damage assessments.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in in Shasta County can begin applying for assistance on August 6 by registering at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

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