Biden approves disaster declaration for California

SAN FRANCISCO • US President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for California and was due to travel to Sacramento yesterday to survey the damage from recent wildfires, the White House said.

More than 6,800 wildfires large and small have blackened an estimated 689,000ha within California alone this season, stretching available firefighting forces and equipment dangerously thin.

The blazes have been stoked by extremely hot, dry conditions that experts say are symptomatic of climate change during a summer fire season shaping up as one of the most destructive on record.

President Biden has declared that a major disaster exists in California and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Caldor fire beginning on Aug 14, and continuing, the White House said.

Mr Biden's trip to California is part of a three-state tour aimed at highlighting his push to fight climate change and strengthen the country's infrastructure, while helping fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom try to hold on to California's governorship.

Fresh off travel last week to view flood damage from Hurricane Ida in New York and New Jersey, Mr Biden will visit the National Interagency Fire Centre on a stop in Boise, Idaho, before flying to Sacramento.

Mr Biden said last week that wildfires, hurricanes and floods were hitting every part of the United States, with more than 100 million Americans affected this summer alone, as he pressed for investments to boost infrastructure and fight global warming.

Mr Biden made fighting climate change a key plank of his 2020 presidential campaign and a top priority of his administration, but some of his goals rely on getting the US Congress to pass multi-trillion-dollar legislation on infrastructure and other priorities.

This month, Mr Biden declared an emergency in California and ordered federal assistance to boost responders' efforts to battle the Caldor fire.

The fire, burning since mid-August, is 65 per cent contained.

After viewing the fire damage, Mr Biden will head to Long Beach to take part in an event with Mr Newsom, an ally who is fighting to survive a Republican-led recall.

Mr Biden's presence is meant to help mobilise Democrats to come out to the polls and secure Democratic leadership of the nation's most-populous state.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'Biden approves disaster declaration for California'. Subscribe