White House Declares Presidential Major Disaster for California’s Wildfires

By Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
August 24, 2021 Updated: August 25, 2021

President Joe Biden on Aug. 24 approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to provide support in the state’s wildfire response as National Parks close amid active raging fires.

“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,” Newsom said in a statement.

The response is aimed at the Dixie, McFarland, Antelope, Monument, and River fires. The Dixie fire erupted on July 14 before burning over 700,000 acres. As of Aug. 24, the fire is 41 percent contained as other fires roar throughout the state.

According to the governor’s office, 13,712 personnel and 1,031 fire engines are at the wildfire frontlines as of Aug. 22.

“We are deploying every available tool we have to keep communities safe as California battles these catastrophic wildfires driven by climate change impacts,” Newsom said in a statement.

“Even while the fires continue to burn, we are working to put assistance programs in place for impacted individuals to support their recovery from these devastating fires.”

To better support firefighters during the Northern California conditions, the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region closed nine national forests effective Aug. 22 to Sept. 6.

“Fires are running very quickly due to the drought conditions, dry fuels, and winds. This makes initial attack and containment very difficult and is even more challenging with strained resources who are battling more than 100 large fires across the country,” regional forester Jennifer Eberlien said about the closures.

“We do not take this decision lightly and understand how this impacts people who enjoy recreating on the national forests. These temporary closures are necessary to ensure public and firefighter safety as well as reduce the potential for new fire starts.”

Among the nine forests closed are Klamath National Forest, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Lassen National Forest, Mendocino National Forest, Modoc National Forest, Plumas National Forest, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Six Rivers National Forest, and Tahoe National Forest.

With the major disaster designation, residents impacted by the fires are eligible for programs that include housing, food assistance, counseling, and medical and legal services. The state will also receive hazard mitigation which assists local and state governments in limiting the risks of fires in the future. Recovery and emergency response to the ongoing wildfires will also be provided.

As active fires run through the northern end of the state, Cal Fire on Twitter on Aug. 24 urged residents to be aware of fire conditions, including gusty winds and low humidity.

Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna