| USA TODAY
AP Top Stories Oct. 16 P
Here are the top stories for Friday, Oct. 16th: Trump Biden hit campaign trail after town halls; Trump approves disaster relief for Calif.; Putin makes arms control proposal with U.S.; Retail sales jump more than expected.
President Donald Trump abruptly changed course Friday on denying California federal aid for wildfires that have scorched the state, a decision that came hours after Governor Gavin Newsom vowed to appeal an initial denial.
“Just got off the phone with President Trump who has approved our Major Disaster Declaration request. Grateful for his quick response,” Newsom said in a statement Friday.
The state had planned to appeal a denial from the administration and believed it had a strong case. Earlier in the day, Newsom responded on Twitter to a New York Times report on the administration’s “rare refusal” with a promise to appeal.
Friday’s exchange is just the latest example of ongoing finger-pointing between California and the Trump administration over wildfires.
Newsom says the increasing intensity and frequency of the wildfires are evidence of global warming, but Trump has sought to blame forest management.
This year’s wildfires have burned more than 4 million acres — more than double the previous record.
“If that’s not proof point, testament, to climate change, then I don’t know what is,” Newsom previously said.
For at least two years, the president has criticized California’s handling of the fires, particularly over what he says is inadequate management of its forests.
Federal agencies, such as the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, own and manage 19 million acres, or 57% of the forests in California, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Among the fires listed in the now-approved aid application is the Creek Fire, which erupted in the Sierra Nevada on Sept. 4 and is 60% contained after burning 850 homes and more than 537 square miles in Fresno and Madera counties.
Neither Newsom nor the White House immediately gave details on why the administration shifted positions only hours after it initially denied the state’s request for a declaration that officials said could provide the state with hundreds of millions of dollars.
White House spokesman Judd Deere previously said California’s request “was not supported by the relevant data” needed for approval and that Trump agreed with a recommendation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator to reject the declaration.
Newsom had asked for the major disaster declaration on Sept. 28 to cover fires in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, San Bernardino, San Diego and Siskiyou counties.
Contributing: Jessica Flores and Doug Stanglin; Visalia Times Delta; The Associated Press