Newsom signs state of emergency to support California communities recovering from wildfires

·2 min read

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed an emergency proclamation to help communities recover from three destructive wildfires that seared through structures during California's record-breaking heat wave at the start of September.

The 13,440-acre Mountain fire in Siskiyou County began Sept. 2 and destroyed two homes while threatening hundreds more and prompting major evacuations, officials said.

In Madera County, the 819-acre Fork fire began Sept. 7 and destroyed 26 structures and threatened critical infrastructure. That same day, the 5,843-acre Barnes fire ignited in Modoc County and went on to destroy at least two structures.

The fires marked yet another concerning confluence of climate factors in California, where rising temperatures and severe drought are contributing to faster and more frequent conflagrations. The three fires sparked only days after Newsom proclaimed a separate state of emergency due to the extreme heat event — during which triple-digit temperatures "exacerbated drought conditions, dry fuels and the intensity and spread of wildfires," the latest proclamation states.

Notably, the fires created a substantial amount of debris in the three counties, including hazardous structural debris, which can contain dangerous materials such as arsenic, lead and asbestos, the governor's office said. Such materials require cautious and quick removal and proper disposal.

The proclamation, which will enable the counties to access resources under the California Disaster Assistance Act, will help expedite that cleanup. It will also support residents by "easing access to unemployment benefits and waiving fees to replace documents" such as birth certificates and driver's licenses, according to the governor's office.

There have been several other destructive fires this year that have received similar consideration, including the Mill fire, which ignited Sept. 2 in Siskiyou County and wiped out the community of Lincoln Heights within minutes. It prompted a state of emergency proclamation, as well as a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with fire suppression costs.

Among other fires, the governor also proclaimed emergencies for the 29,307-acre Fairview fire, which destroyed at least 36 structures in Riverside County and killed two people this month, and the 60,000-acre McKinney fire, which started in Siskiyou County in late July and destroyed at least 132 structures and claimed several lives.

"These wildfires, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces" of mutual aid, the proclamations state.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Fork fire was 100% contained. The Barnes fire was 98% contained and the Mountain fire was 95% contained.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.