By John Purcell and Dan Randlett - 09/02/09 10:10 PM EDT
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is comparing fire-ravaged parts of California to a “war zone.”
McKeon has visited the site of the Los Angeles-area fire, meeting and thanking rescue and law enforcement officials. In a video of the meeting posted on his website, McKeon compared the site to a “war zone,” referencing his recent trip to Afghanistan.
McKeon’s office is coordinating with local officials to secure federal aid in fighting the fire, evacuating those in danger, and aiding the displaced. The fire has spread through McKeon’s district, as well as Rep. David Dreier’s (R-Calif.) 26th district. Communities in Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) 29th district and Rep. Brad Sherman’s (D-Calif.) 27th district are also being affected.
Dreier and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are also engaged with local officials. Dreier has been working with the Forest Service, and is concerned with the possibility of increased mudslide activity after the fires are extinguished.
Feinstein and her staff have been in daily contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal and state aid organizations.
The loss of life and property have been relatively low compared to the fires of 2007, which claimed 2,500 homes. In an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, Feinstein said that the Station Fire had claimed 62 homes, and the Auburn Fire 50.
McKeon nearly lost his home in the 2007 fire. He told The Hill at the time he woke up at 2:30 a.m. to see the hillside behind his house glowing with fire and flames shooting as high as 50 feet in the air.
The Contra Costa Times reported that Sherman, Schiff and McKeon will seek additional federal funds to reimburse California. "We're prepared to light a fire under the federal government to make sure that these grants go out in a timely way," Schiff told the paper.
“The first thing to do is to put out the fire,” Sherman told The Hill on Wednesday.
In an interview with The Hill, Schiff expressed concern that almost half of the $180 million of federal money set aside for fighting fires has been used up already and the wildfire season has only begun.
A spokeswoman said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has been in contact with local elected officials and emergency personnel, and has staff placed at the command center to lend assistance.