SACRAMENTO (CN) – Seeking to expedite and bolster wildfire recovery efforts, Gov. Jerry Brown and California’s congressional delegation asked President Donald Trump on Friday to approve $7.4 billion in disaster relief for the Golden State.
Brown called the October wildfires, which burned nearly 245,000 acres and killed 43 people in Northern California, “one of the deadliest and most destructive” fire events in California’s history.
State officials say insurers have already reported $3 billion in losses from the state’s Wine Country but reiterated that the startling number will grow.
“The full economic impact to the agricultural, tourism, hospitality and wine industries is still not known,” Brown said in a letter to President Trump. “Nine California wineries were destroyed and 21 were damaged in the nation’s most prominent winemaking region.”
Sonoma and Napa Counties were devastated by a series of fires that sparked late on Oct. 8. Fueled by sporadic hurricane-force winds and dry grasses, the fast-moving fire destroyed entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, the biggest Wine Country city with a population of about 170,000.
The fires raged for over three weeks and destroyed 8,800 homes and commercial buildings, including 5 percent of Santa Rosa’s total housing. Fire damage stretched across eight counties and three tribal nations.
With the fires finally contained, crews are beginning the mammoth process of clearing the damaged neighborhoods and prepping them for reconstruction. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently identifying and removing hazardous waste from burned-out lots in Sonoma and Napa Counties.
While state officials are still investigating the official cause of the fires, some residents are claiming that utility giant PG&E is to blame. Lawsuits have poured in against the San-Francisco based power company, including one by a Santa Rosa couple that claims the utility’s poorly maintained power lines started the Tubbs Fire, which destroyed their home.
PG&E says it is cooperating with investigators and has donated $ 3 million to wildfire recovery efforts.
California’s relief request would go toward housing, cleanup, environmental and agricultural programs. Brown also cleared $40 million in state funds toward immediate cleanup efforts.