Brown Orders Red Tape Cut to Help California Wildfire Victims

Two women, sort through the rubble of the property on 106 West Gate Drive in Napa, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. The property is where an elderly couple, died during the fire last Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. (Ray Chavez /San Jose Mercury News via AP)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Fire-ravaged California communities got much needed good news with Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order suspending some regulations to spur rebuilding efforts, and word that firefighters expect to have the most serious of the wildfires in Sonoma County fully contained by Friday.

Brown’s executive order suspends a number of zoning and planning regulations and state-assessed fees for manufactured and mobile homes so residents who lost homes can quickly get a roof over their heads.

Wednesday’s order also protects victims of the state’s deadliest fires from price gouging, streamlines hiring for emergency and recovery personnel and allows wineries to temporarily relocate tasting rooms.

Brown quickly secured a major disaster declaration from President Donald Trump last week, a step that speeds federal aid to residents of Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada and Orange counties that have been severely impacted by this month’s wildfires. The declaration allows for workers who have lost jobs or have had reduced hours due to the fires to claim federal aid under disaster unemployment benefits and streamlines the process for providing needed disaster relief supplies and manpower.

U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein joined Brown and saw the catastrophic damage in the region first hand this past weekend, after sending a letter to Trump requesting expedited federal aid. The Trump administration provided aid within 24 hours of the request.

“Gov. Brown has determined that the severity of the wildfires is beyond the state’s capabilities, and we appreciate your swift response in issuing a major disaster declaration” Harris and Feinstein wrote. “We urge you to direct federal agencies to assess the damage and begin disbursing individual and public assistance as soon as possible.”

Harris introduced legislation this week in Washington to revise current disaster funding in an effort to provide quicker response to events nationwide. She was joined by a bipartisan coalition of senators from Western states urging a revamped process for providing disaster relief aid through a letter sent to legislative leaders.

“Passage of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act will free up funds to do the prevention work that reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires that our country has suffered this year – funding that could have prevented the deaths of Americans, destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses, the loss of business revenue due to evacuations, and the loss of millions of acres of forests,” the letter reads.

The causes of the wildfires are still under investigation, and new fires in Santa Cruz County threaten to strain disaster relief efforts further. Nine California counties have been declared disaster areas since the fires began in early October.


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