Update Oct. 19, 2020: President Trump has reversed his administration’s initial decision and will now grant California relief aid after speaking with Gov. Newsom.

The Trump administration rejected California’s request for disaster relief aid for the wildfires that ravaged nearly 2 million acres of land, destroyed thousands of homes and buildings, and caused at least three deaths.

In a statement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), press secretary Lizzie Litzow said the fires “were not of such severity and magnitude to exceed the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and other responding federal agencies.”

Since August, California has faced record-breaking fires that have caused upwards of $229 million in infrastructure damage, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom who submitted a request for federal assistance in late Sept. 2020.

Due to the economic consequences of COVID-19, Gov. Newsom called upon the president to increase relief aid to help the state recover from the six mega-wildfires in San Diego, San Bernardino, Siskiyou, Mendocino, Los Angeles, and Fresno and Madera counties.

“California’s economy is suffering in a way we have not seen since the 2009 Great Recession,” he wrote, underlining the necessity of federal aid.

Just this year, California has suffered four of its five largest wildfires in modern history, destroying homes and communities and forcing evacuations of tens of thousands of people.

Source: NBC News/YouTube

The White House’s rejection of aid for a disaster on this scale comes as the president and Gov. Newsom have repeatedly fought over the severity of wildfires, which underlined Trump’s climate change denial.

In 2019, Trump threatened to remove FEMA funding for California based on a misleading argument that forest management is the cause of wildfires. During the first presidential debate this month, he repeated the false talking point on forest management and denied the role of climate change in creating powerful wildfires.

Many scientists have warned that the rising temperatures, droughts, extreme weather, and powerful lightning strikes that all result from climate change create the perfect conditions more frequent and intense mega-wildfires.

Regardless of the evidence, Trump continuously questions the scientific consensus on climate change. Trump’s rejection of aid proves his willingness to let thousands of Americans suffer from the damage caused by deadly wildfires to punish Gov. Newsom for questioning his leadership.

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