The White House has approved a disaster declaration for Shasta County, allowing affected residents from the Carr Fire to apply for federal disaster assistance such as temporary housing, home repairs and other programs.
At the same time, President Donald Trump blamed the state’s environmental laws for the wildfires.
“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” he tweeted Sunday. “It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”
It wasn’t immediately clear what California laws Trump was referring to. Henri Grissino-Mayer, a geography professor at the University of Tennessee, said he had “no clue” what Trump was referring to in his tweet.
“California does NOT divert water to the ocean,” he told CNN in an email. “Ridiculous. It’s true that water is diverted to the coastal cities for a constant water supply but all such water is used by the coastal communities.”
More than 14,000 firefighters are battling the wildfires across California. Fire crews from Australia and New Zealand are coming to the state to help.
“Battling these relentless fires requires a Herculean effort,” California Gov. Jerry Brown had written in his request to Trump for a presidential major disaster declaration.
The international fire teams were to arrive in Redding, California, on Monday, said Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott.
Parts of Redding were damaged by the Carr Fire, which has burned more than 160,000 acres. The fire was 43% contained as of late Sunday, according to Cal Fire.
The Carr Fire, now in its third week, is the sixth most destructive in the state’s history, having destroyed more than 1,600 structures, according to Cal Fire.
The fire claimed its seventh victim Saturday when a Pacific Gas & Electric worker died while working with a crew to restore power, utility spokesman J.D. Guidi said.
Elsewhere in the state, the Mendocino Complex Fire nearly doubled in size over the weekend to make it the second largest in the state’s history.
No one has been injured in the massive inferno, which consists of two fires — the Ranch Fire and the River Fire — burning around Clear Lake, in Northern California.
Combined, they form the biggest blaze that California firefighters are currently battling. Altogether, the Mendocino Complex Fire has burned 273,664 acres — growing about 70% over the weekend. As of Monday morning, it was 30% contained and had destroyed 75 residences.
Exhausted firefighters across the state are trying to contain 17 major fires that are burning in hot, dry and windy conditions.