Obama declares California fire as major disaster

The remains of homes and vehicles scorched by a wildfire in Middletown, California.  

U.S. President Barack Obama declared a major disaster Tuesday in a Northern California wildfire that has destroyed at least 1,200 homes and killed at least three people.

The declaration issued for the fire that broke out in Lake County, 145 kilometres north of San Francisco releases federal money for recovery and cleanup, including grant money for temporary housing and home repairs.

The devastating wildfire that started Sept. 12 ranks among California’s most destructive and stands at 75 per cent contained with 306 sq. km. scorched. Thousands of people fled their homes at the peak of the fire, and two men remain missing, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday.

Sheriff Brian Martin said at a news conference Tuesday that his office had received reports of 15 people missing since the fire started. All have been accounted for except the two men. “We are hopeful these people are located and returned and reunited with their loved ones,” he said.

The fire has claimed the lives of three people.

Several areas remained under an evacuation order more than a week after the fire’s start as crews continue to clear debris and trees and restore damaged power lines.

California Gov. Jerry Brown requested disaster declarations for the fire in Lake County as well as another destructive wildfire in Calaveras and Amador counties, about 200 kilometres east of San Francisco. Federal officials are still working on the request for the other fire, said Kelly Huston, deputy director for the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 7:07:41 AM |

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