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Trump approves disaster funds for Thomas fire victims

Trump approves disaster funds for Thomas fire victims
The Thomas fire left behind vast swaths of charred landscape such as this area in the upper Rincon Canyon. (Hal Wells / Los Angeles Times)

President Trump on Tuesday declared that a major natural disaster exists in California and ordered federal assistance to help local agencies in recovery efforts in areas affected by the Thomas fire, which started Dec. 4 and is still burning.

The declaration means federal funds will be available to state and local governments for emergency work in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, according to a news release from the White House.

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Nonprofit organizations will also be eligible to receive funds for emergency work.

Last year was the most destructive on record for California wildfires, with the Thomas fire topping an 85-year-old list of the state's largest wildfires. It was also the third year in the last decade that flames burned more than 1 million acres across the state.

So far, the Thomas fire has cost more than $204.5 million to fight, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said. More than 1,000 structures were destroyed and an additional 280 structures were damaged, the spokesman said.

The fire has burned nearly 282,000 acres and is 92% contained.

For more crime news, follow @nicolesantacruz on Twitter.

Times staff writer Bettina Boxall contributed to this report.

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