California Asks Obama|for Help on Wildfires


     SACRAMENTO (CN) – With firefighters battling disastrous “megafires” in Northern California, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday asked President Obama for disaster funding to help victims of the Butte and Valley fires.
     The wildfires jumpstarted by parched vegetation and unpredictable winds have destroyed more than 1,700 homes in foothill communities in the past two weeks.
     In a letter to President Obama, Brown said federal funding would help thousands of fire victims who have lost homes and are without electricity or drinking water.
     “I have determined this incident is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments and supplemental federal assistance is necessary,” Brown wrote.
     The Valley fire has claimed more than 1,200 homes and three lives in Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties. State officials Monday said it’s the third most destructive wildfire in state history.
     The Valley fire started Sept. 12 about 90 miles north of San Francisco and has blackened more than 75,000 acres and forced 19,000 people to evacuate. The Valley fire is the third big wildfire to strike Lake County this summer and has left one of the state’s poorer counties in disarray.
     “Debris hazards, including asbestos, heavy metals, structural debris, ash, concrete foundations and metals pose a public health and safety concern and threaten the health of the local environment,” the governor said in his letter to the president.
     The Butte fire continues to rage through Calaveras and Amador counties, burning more than 70,000 acres in landscape similar to the Valley fire.
     Four years of intense drought has killed millions of trees and left the Golden State vulnerable to megafires, Brown told the president.
     “Due to the fire’s rapid rate of spread, many residents had little time to flee, and some required rescue by firefighters and local law enforcement,” Brown wrote.
     Two have died in the Butte fire and the death toll could grow as many residents are missing. Hundreds of telephone poles have been burned and thousands of people are without power because of the Butte fire, including the California Highway Patrol, which temporarily lost telephone communications.
     Brown declared a state of emergency 10 days ago in the counties affected by the Valley and Butte fires, sending additional state aid there.
     More than 11,000 firefighters are battling California wildfires. The state has seen 69 major fires and 5,300 wildfires since January. Already this year nearly three times as many acres have burned as were burned in 2014.

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