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Governor Newsom Requests Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to Support Communities Recovering from Recent Wildfires Driven by Extreme Heat Wave

Request includes support for six impacted counties, including residents of the historically significant Black community of Lincoln Heights that was destroyed by the Mill Fire

SACRAMENTO – Working to bolster California’s support for the diverse communities impacted by extreme heat and weather-driven wildfires, Governor Gavin Newsom today requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to assist state and local response and recovery efforts in the counties of Siskiyou, Riverside, El Dorado, Placer, Madera, and Modoc.

The request encompasses the communities impacted by fires that were exacerbated by the unprecedented late-August and early September “heat dome.” The heat dome created unprecedented weather and environmental conditions that significantly spread the wildfires across California, including the Mill, Mountain, Fairview, Mosquito, Fork, and Barnes fires.

“The devastating impacts of our changing climate have never been more clear – and they threaten not just our future, but the history, places and communities that define our state,” said Governor Newsom. “We are deploying every tool we have, including seeking the support of the federal government, to help Californians as they rebuild and recover from wildfires driven by the recent record-breaking heat dome.”

The text of the Governor’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration can be found here.

Communities impacted by these fires include diverse and socially vulnerable areas of the state. Among the hardest hit was the Lincoln Heights community in Weed, a historically Black neighborhood that dates back to the early 20th century. As the New York Times recently chronicled, the “Lincoln Heights community endured for decades, despite segregation, economic hardship and a pandemic..”

The decision on whether to approve California’s request will be vetted through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which last year announced that its number one strategic goal as an organization is to “instill equity as a foundation of emergency management.”

“While we are optimistic that FEMA will live up to its new mission-set and prioritize equity for the most vulnerable Americans as it reviews this request, California is already actively working on the ground in these communities to provide support and put them on the road recovery,” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).

Today’s announcement follows a visit by senior state leaders to Lincoln Heights, including representatives from Cal OES, the Governor’s Office and the Department of Finance.

The state and its partners are on the ground actively working to provide California communities the resources they need to get back home as soon as it is safe to do so. The state has opened local assistance centers and is helping to remove household hazardous waste in multiple counties, the first stage of returning damaged properties to their owners. There are also teams on the ground clearing debris and removing hazardous trees.

If approved, a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration could help people in the impacted counties through eligibility for several programs and supports, along with assistance to help state, tribal and local  governments with ongoing emergency response and recovery costs.