The White House has rejected a California request for federal disaster relief to help it recover from wildfires that have burned through nearly 3,000 square miles in the state, killing at least three people and destroying nearly 1,000 homes. In a statement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, press secretary Lizzie Litzow said that damage assessments conducted by the agency had determined the fires last month "were not of such severity and magnitude to exceed the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and other responding federal agencies." California asked for federal assistance in recovering from fires that have ravaged nearly 2 million acres – the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties, the Valley Fire in San Diego County, San Bernardino County's El Dorado Fire, the Slater Fire in Siskiyou County, the Oak Fire in Mendocino County and the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles County. The Creek Fire alone – the state's largest-ever single fire, not counting fire complexes — damaged more than 550 structures and forced nearly 25,000 people to evacuate, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The rejection, which comes after FEMA granted other fire-related relief to California in August, raises questions about the administration's motive, given President Trump's frequent public sparring with California officials over the wildfires. At an August rally in Pennsylvania, for instance, Trump seemed to telegraph that he might reject California's requests for wildfire aid: "Maybe we're just going to have to make them pay for it because they don't listen to us."...MORE
In a statement Friday, deputy press secretary Judd Deere highlighted other areas the federal government had provided assistance to California during its historic fire season. "This summer, President Trump quickly approved wildfire relief for the State of California that was supported by damage estimates. In fact, this week the President made additional disaster assistance available to California by authorizing an increase in the level of Federal funding to 100% for debris removal and emergency protective measures undertaken as a result of the wildfires, beginning August 14, 2020, and continuing," Deere wrote in a statement. "The more recent and separate California submission was not supported by the relevant data that States must provide for approval and the President concurred with the FEMA Administrator's recommendation," the statement read. The Federal Emergency Management Agency told CNN in a statement Friday that damage assessments "determined that the early September fires were not of such severity and magnitude to exceed the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and other responding federal agencies." "FEMA approved four Fire Management Assistance Grants in five counties for wildfires included in the state's disaster request, allowing reimbursement to state, local governments and other eligible agencies for 75 percent of firefighting, evacuation and sheltering costs," FEMA spokeswoman Lizzie Litzow said in the statement.