Skip to main content

California’s governor said on Friday that U.S. President Donald Trump approved his request for additional wildfire recovery relief, reversing the administration’s denial of the state request a day earlier.

In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Trump had committed to declaring a major disaster in seven counties affected by blazes that ignited in early September.

“Just got off the phone with President Trump who has approved our Major Disaster Declaration request,” Newsom said. “Grateful for his quick response.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump issued a major disaster declaration for some parts of the state in August, a move that provides federal assistance for individuals, infrastructure and both emergency and permanent work.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said blazes that ignited in September, part of the state’s record-setting fire year, were not severe enough to be declared a “major disaster.”

Some 4.1 million acres burned this year, shattering a previous record and causing US$229 million of damage.

The rejection and subsequent approval was the latest in a string of clashes between President Donald Trump’s administration and the Democratic-led Golden State.

Trump has repeatedly blamed deadly wildfires on a failure by California to clear its forests of dead trees and debris and threatened to withhold federal assistance.

“They have massive fires again in California,” Trump said at a campaign rally in August. “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”

In fact, more than half of California’s forests fall under federal management yet the state spends more than the U.S. Forest Service does on managing those lands to reduce wildfire risk.

Newsom sent him a request on Sept. 28 seeking another such declaration for seven counties affected by fires that ignited early that month. To date, those fires have burned more than 650,000 acres. Among them is the Creek Fire, which has charred more than 340,000 acres in Fresno and Madera counties and is the largest single fire in state history, according to the letter.

The state had said its finances had been decimated by the fires and the coronavirus pandemic and it was struggling with a US$54.3 billion budget deficit after beginning the year with a US$5.6 billion surplus.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.