Gov. Jerry Brown requests a major disaster declaration for SoCal wildfires

Residents watch the Thomas fire burn in the hills above La Conchita in Ventura County.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday requested a major disaster declaration from President Trump to assist with the response to the devastating wildfires that raged across Southern California this month.

The wind-driven blazes, which ravaged neighborhoods from San Diego County to Santa Barbara County, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and forced more than 200,000 people to flee.

The most destructive — and persistent — among them was the Thomas fire, which burned 272,000 acres across Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and destroyed more than 750 single-family homes. As of Wednesday, it was 60% contained.


“I have determined this incident is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments and supplemental federal assistance is necessary,” Brown wrote in the request.

He added that burn zones have large amounts of debris that must be “expeditiously removed to eliminate the immediate threat to public health and safety.”

Since July, Brown said he declared a state of emergency during 19 wildfires in California. Since January, he wrote, there have been more than 8,700 fire starts across the state.

In October, Trump approved a similar declaration to assist with the destructive fires that ripped through the Northern California wine country and claimed more than 40 lives.

“This declaration will allow FEMA to identify, mobilize and provide additional equipment and resources to assist with the emergency,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the time. “This includes debris removal, emergency protective measures, search and rescue operations.”


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