Home>Articles>President Biden Approves Federal Emergency Wildfire Disaster Relief For Four Northern CA Counties

President Joe Biden (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

President Biden Approves Federal Emergency Wildfire Disaster Relief For Four Northern CA Counties

Lassen, Nevada, Placer, Plumas Counties to receive aid due to damage from Dixie, River fires

By Evan Symon, August 25, 2021 11:01 am

President Joe Biden signed and approved an emergency disaster declaration in California on Tuesday over the wildfire situation in the state, giving federal aid to helps state and local wildfire recovery effort dating back mid-July of this year.

Biden’s order for aid came in less than 24 hours after Governor Gavin Newsom had initially requested a presidential major disaster declaration. In his request, Newsom asked for additional state and local wildfire response and recovery aid in 8 counties in Northern California, including Lassen, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity. Specifically, this covers 5 fires, including the Dixie Fire, the second largest in state history that also destroyed the town of Greenville.

“These wildfires warrant expedited assistance,” the Governor said in his request to the President. “They are actively burning, limiting officials’ ability to conduct a complete damage assessment. Based on what we know already, however, these fires have impacted multiple communities, including some with substantial vulnerable and senior populations. Thousands of residents have been evacuated; entire towns, communities, and economies have been impacted; more than 1,600 structures have already been reported as destroyed, including nearly 1,000 homes (numbers that are expected to increase as areas become accessible and safe to assess); and multiple watersheds are likely to be contaminated with toxic runoff, endangering community water supply, agriculture, and wildlife.”

“We are deploying every available tool we have to keep communities safe as California battles these catastrophic wildfires driven by climate change impacts. Even while the fires continue to burn, we are working to put assistance programs in place for impacted individuals to support their recovery from these devastating fires.”

Newsom also noted that the aid requested would go to, among other things, housing assistance, food aid, counseling, medical services, and legal services for fire victims and evacuees. The request would also increase wildfire mitigation efforts in the future, as well as state, local, and tribal emergency response and recovery costs, including assistance to the 13,712 first responders currently battling the numerous wildfires across the state.

However, only 4 of the 8 requested counties were covered by the President’s request approval on Tuesday: Lassen, Nevada, Placer, and Pumas. Biden also noted that federal aid will include, but not be limited to, “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 wildfire. State, local, and tribal governments will also receive direct federal assistance in the four counties.

Emergency aid for four of eight requested counties

Gavin Newsom
Governor Gavin Newsom. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

As noted by the Governor’s office, federal emergency aid is only going to half the requested counties due to federal officials not being able to take into account what the damage of 3 out of the 5 requested wildfires are so far due to them still being largely uncontained. Only the counties affected by the Dixie and River Fires, both of which are currently being contained, are to receive aid as of Tuesday, with state officials hoping for more in the future.

“California is grateful for President Biden’s swift approval of our request and the ongoing work of our heroic firefighters and emergency responders to protect communities across Northern California,” Governor Newsom said in a statement on Tuesday. “This declaration makes vital resources available as we continue to work in lockstep with local, state and federal partners to meet the challenge of these catastrophic wildfires and support communities in recovery.”

As of Wednesday, the total amount of federal aid to go to California through the President’s emergency disaster declaration is not known due to aid being distributed on a requested basis.

“Disaster funding is not usually limited to a certain amount, especially during times of emergencies,” explained Michael Carver, a disaster relief worker who has assisted in numerous relief projects across the US in a Globe interview. “FEMA didn’t give a dollar amount going into, say, Hurricane relief efforts because need keeps coming in. And you can’t cap aid in most situations because it is an emergency and it’s needed urgently.”

“And here, with the Governor’s request, you know the state needs more emergency aid so they asked for and received it. Trump approved the same sort of wildfire aid last year too, but only after [Congressman] Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) helped convince him.”

The federal aid is expected to be divested in the four named Northern California counties soon.

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