House

McCarthy joins push asking Trump for more wildfire aid in California

California's top House Republican on Tuesday joined the push for President Trump to send more federal aid to fight the massive wildfires raging through his state.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R), a close Trump ally, endorsed a bipartisan letter from California lawmakers urging the president to approve a request, submitted last week by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), for a major disaster declaration across a handful of counties ravaged by the blazes - a designation that would free up more federal relief for local governments and individuals alike.

Trump on Saturday approved such a declaration for Shasta County, where the Carr Fire has already destroyed almost 170,000 acres and more than 1,000 homes, resulting in seven deaths. The bipartisan group of lawmakers wants the aid expanded to include Lake, Mendocino and Napa counties, where separate fires have grown even larger than the Carr.

"These catastrophic fires are a disaster of major scope and consequence," the lawmakers wrote. "Therefore, we strongly support the State of California's request for a major disaster declaration for these communities."

Spearheaded by California Reps. John Garamendi (D), Jared Huffman (D) and Mike Thompson (D), the letter was endorsed by 22 additional California lawmakers, including McCarthy, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R), Ken Calvert (R) and Ed Royce (R). 

The timeline on an administration decision remains unclear, as the fires are still burning and a preliminary damage assessment is not expected until the end of the week. A Democratic aide said that's the earliest the lawmakers anticipate a decision on the request.

Last month, Trump approved an emergency declaration for Shasta County, represented by LaMalfa, freeing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide help largely in fighting the Carr Fire.

Saturday's major declaration bumped up the level of aid in Shasta to include funding for repairs to government infrastructure, as well as housing, food and counseling services for affected individuals.

Since then, a pair of separate fires, known collectively as the Mendocino Complex, has mushroomed in size, destroying more than 290,000 acres in Mendocino and Lake counties northwest of Sacramento.

"The Mendocino Complex Fire continues to grow at an alarming rate, and is now the largest fire in our state's history," the lawmakers wrote to Trump. "It is only 30 percent contained."

A fourth fire, the Steele Fire, hit Napa County last month, destroying 135 acres and eight structures before it was contained on Aug. 2.

"Though smaller in size than the Carr or Mendocino Complex Fires, the Steele Fire has already been extremely destructive," the lawmakers wrote. "Residents were forced to flee with almost no prior notice, as the fire destroyed homes soon after ignition."

The lawmakers are also warning that, with plenty of days left in California's wildfire season, more damage is likely to come.

"These fires have been exacerbated by the weather, which is exceptionally hot and dry," they wrote. "Daytime highs and nighttime lows have averaged 10 degrees above normal and drought conditions prevail."

Updated at 6:15 p.m.

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