The Aftermath of California Wildfires

CHARLOTTE SHAO (Copy Editor), SAM LUO (Web Editor)

In mid-October, President Donald Trump and his administration explained why they decided to decline a request for a wildfire disaster relief package for California. Only after the president’s consultation with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Representative Kevin McCarthy and the house minority leader, was the decision to withdraw aid reversed.

“California’s economy is suffering in a way we have not seen since the 2009 Great Recession,” Newsom wrote in his letter of appeal to President Trump, according to the New York Times.

The aid in question will be used to cover six major wildfires that damaged over 1.8 million acres of land, which include a gigafire, also known as the August Complex Fire, according to Vox. Moreover, Cal Fire’s daily update has recorded that 4.1 million acres have been burned along with 31 deaths and thousands of properties decimated, all in 2020. 

Trump has issued a disaster declaration for the state, which is now included in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) list of 98 major disaster declarations as of late. This announcement paved the way for California residents to appeal for federal funds, all of which encompass “grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” FEMA said. 

Meanwhile, Fox News reports that California insurance companies are dropping tens of thousands of homeowners in the most vulnerable communities. The California Department of Insurance said Monday in a report that the number of nonrenewals grew by 31%, from 55,792 policies to 235,250 policies in 2019 statewide. In areas with higher fire risk, the number of nonrenewals jumped even higher to 61%. In the 10 most vulnerable counties it jumped to 203%. The homeowners being dropped have to turn to niche companies or state plans to help them stay covered. 

These next two weeks are going to be high risk for fires, according to The Washington Post. Hard winds and little precipitation are big factors in the ongoing blazes. On Oct. 23, a large section of the state from San Jose up to Redding is under red flags for critical fire conditions. As of Oct. 21, about 7,000 firefighters are on duty with about 22 fires ongoing across the state, including 12 large blazes.