• Rueben Vargas

Trump Administration Quietly Reverses Decision on Denying California Wildfire Aid

A firefighter performs structural protection in the Glass Fire in Nappa County

The Trump Administration quietly reversed its decision of denying California Gov. Gavin Newsom wildfire aid late Friday, Oct. 16th. Trump initially rejected the request which was made in September, but the key intervention of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) led to Trump reversing his decision. Gov. Newsom announced on Friday, October 16th that he had spoken to President Trump via phone and confirmed the request was approved. "Grateful for his quick response," Newsom said.

A spokesperson from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services confirmed that Trump had initially rejected Newsom’s request for a major presidential disaster declaration, which would allow federal funds to be released to aid in the emergency. White House spokesperson Judd Deer confirmed that both Newsom and McCarthy made a compelling enough case to approve the relief.

Trump had initially approved a major disaster declaration for specific areas in California in August, before the combined fires had grown into a record breaking 4.1 million acre blaze and $229 million in damage. Prior to the confirmation of aid, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency had declared the major blazes in California would not be classified as a major disaster.

Gov. Newsom sent a letter to the Trump administration last month. In it he thanked Trump for visiting the state and for the initial aid provided. Newsom however warned the President that the state is “experiencing another siege of fires from early September, which will continue to devastate communities throughout the state.” He also wrote that California was facing such unprecedented devastation that recovery efforts were “beyond the state’s capabilities.”

Hours before Trump reversed his decision Friday, FEMA press secretary, Lizzie Litzow, said in a statement that the agency determined that the fires in early September “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."

Trump’s initial refusal of providing California aid is part of his ongoing grudge against the reliably Democrat-leaning state. Blaming the wildfires on the state’s refusal to clear its forest of dead vegetation, trees and debris, Trump has repeatedly threatened to withhold federal assistance to California. "They have massive fires again in California. Maybe we're just going to have to make them pay for it because they don't listen to us,” Trump said during a rally in August. While visiting Los Angeles in September, Trump insisted that the cause of the fires was not climate change. Butting heads with California National Resources Secretary, Wade Crowfoot, Trump said that the climate would eventually get cooler and refused to recognize the science backing the issue of climate change. Trump elaborated, “I don’t think the science knows.”

Despite Gavin Newsom’s public stance to confront climate change, the Governor has recently issued fracking and oil drilling permits without environmental review. A lawsuit filed by environmental advocates is currently ongoing.

Rueben Vargas is the head of social media at Our Revolution LA and a research assistant with Your Revolution LA. He can be found on Twitter @ruebenbvargas. His DMs are open and his Signal is available for news tips and investigative leads.