President Biden approves wildfire major disaster declaration in California
President Biden late Tuesday approved a major disaster declaration for areas affected by the Dixie and River fires in Northern California, opening up federal funding for grants, temporary housing, repairs and other relief efforts as multiple blazes continue to sweep across the Golden State.
The action makes federal funding available to affected residents in Lassen, Nevada, Placer and Plumas counties, according to a statement by the White House. The assistance will include grants to help individuals and business owners recover from the fires.
Federal funding is also available to state, tribal and eligible local governments, as well as to some nonprofit organizations, for emergency protective measures, according to the statement. Money will also be available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures across California.
Damage assessments are ongoing in other areas of the state, the White House said. More counties in areas struck by other fires could become eligible, and additional forms of assistance could open up after the assessments are done.
“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,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement 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.”
The Dixie fire is the largest currently burning in the state, at 733,475 acres and 43% containment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Monument fire has burned 152,125 acres and was 20% contained as of Tuesday night, according to state fire officials. The Caldor fire is the state’s third-largest active fire, at 122,980 acres and 11% containment.
Newsom said state officials and their partners are working quickly to get Californians the resources they need to get back home as soon as it’s safe. Crews are removing hazardous waste left by fires in multiple counties, he said.
In addition to the incoming federal money, millions of dollars in state funds have been provided to Plumas and Alpine counties, Newsom said.
The state also secured Fire Management Assistance Grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support the Dixie fire recovery efforts in Lassen, Butte and Plumas counties and to support recovery from the Caldor, Monument, River and Lava fires, the governor said.
Newsom said he has activated the State Operations Center to its highest level and declared states of emergency in counties affected by the Dixie, Caldor, McFarland, Monument, Antelope, River, Fly, Tamarack, Lava and Beckwourth Complex fires.
Residents and business owners who suffered losses in the designated areas can start applying for assistance Wednesday by registering at DisasterAssistance.gov or calling (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585 TTY. The toll-free phone numbers will operate seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., until further notice, officials said.
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