CHICO—California Gov. Jerry Brown announced a six-part executive order to help the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by what is becoming the most destructive and deadly fire season in state history.
The executive order, issued today, includes provisions that speed up cleanup of debris, extend the prohibition on price gouging during emergencies, suspend planning and zoning fees for homes and mobile parks, allow hospitals and medical facilities to remain open, expedite the use of state property for fire evacuees and create an accelerated hiring process for emergency and recovery operations.
At the press meeting at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on Wednesday, Brown refused to respond to various questions about the lawsuit filed against PG&E, which alleges that a downed powerline caused the fire.
He instead used the meeting to commended the communities who’ve been impacted by the fires in Butte County for their solidarity during this catastrophe.
“No one was expecting it, but it happened,” Brown said at the meeting. “And when it happened people pulled together.”
In a phone call right before the press meeting, he said, President Donald Trump assured him that Butte County, Los Angeles and Ventura have access to all the federal government resources.
FEMA Administrator Brock Long said since Trump signed a major Disaster declaration on Monday, more FEMA employees will be arriving to affected areas to help people sign up for financial aid programs in the coming days.
Long said FEMA will be helping people find temporary places to stay, but the process to totally rebuild the towns that have been completely destroyed by the Camp Fire will take years.
“This is going to be a long and frustrating event for the citizens of Paradise,” he said. “But we have to work together to find a new normal.”
He said that this is not just a local or regional catastrophe, this is a national issue.
“This is the most complex disaster that the nation has ever seen when it comes to Paradise,” he said.
US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said unfortunately, every time he has come to visit California it’s because of a fire, but the destruction and death throughout Butte County makes this one the worst he’s seen.
“This is coming from a kid who grew up in Montana,” he said at the press conference in Chico on Wednesday. “I’ve seen fires across the West, but this is a level of devastation that is beyond the community.”
The Camp Fire that started in Paradise has now burned 138,000 acres in Butte County and killed 56 people in seven days, leveling the town of Paradise in less than 24 hours, according to Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott.
Pimlott said the Woosley Fire in southern California has burned 90,000 acres and is 45 percent contained. He said the Camp Fire is especially challenging, and because of the wind conditions it is only 35 percent contained.
“[The Camp Fire] is now becoming the most destructive and deadly fire in state history,” he said “Our thoughts are with everyone.”
He said there are over 9,000 firefighters working nonstop to contain both major fires.
According to the Camp Fire Incident report, 5,615 are dedicated to fighting the Camp Fire that still threatens 15,500 structures as it moves Northeast and South toward Oroville.
The San Francisco Fire Department spared 12 engines, two support vehicles and 50 firefighters to contain the blaze, according to its public relations office.