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Trump administration rejects California's disaster assistance request for wildfires

Posted October 15, 2020 10:59 p.m. EDT

— The Trump administration has rejected California's request for a disaster declaration for six destructive wildfires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres across the state, including a massive central California wildfire that has become the single largest in state history.

"The request for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration for early September fires has been denied by the federal administration," Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, confirmed to CNN. The state plans to appeal the decision.

The denial comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom requested financial aid from the federal government in a September 28 letter to the Trump administration outlining the financial impact of the wildfires.

Writing that infrastructure damage estimates exceeded $229 million, Newsom asserted that "federal assistance is critical to support physical and economic recovery of California and its communities."

"The longer it takes for California and its communities to recover, the more severe, devastating, and irreversible the economic impacts will be," he said.

Recent fires included in the disaster declaration request were the Creek Fire, the largest wildfire in the state's history, which has scorched 341,722 acres across Fresno and Madera counties, the Bobcat Fire, which has burned 115,796 acres in Los Angeles County, and the El Dorado Fire, which was sparked by a gender reveal party in San Bernardino County over Labor Day weekend.

The three other wildfires in the request were the Valley Fire in San Diego County, the Oak Fire in Mendocino County and the Slater Fire in Siskiyou County.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Since the beginning of this fire season, more than 8,500 wildfires have burned well over 4.1 million acres across the state, Cal Fire said in a press release on Thursday. Thirty-one people died as a result of the wildfires and more than 9,200 structures have been destroyed.

The Trump administration's decision falls in line with the President's combative history with the reliably Democratic state.

During a visit last month, Trump refused to acknowledge the effects the climate crisis is having on California's forest fires and instead continued to highlight the need for better forest management to clear dead trees that can serve as fuel for the fires.

When Wade Crowfoot, the secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency warned of the dangers of ignoring science and putting "our head in the sand and thinking that it's all about vegetation management," Trump responded by telling Crowfoot: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch."

"I wish science agreed with you," Crowfoot told him.

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