VENTURA, Calif. - President Trump approved a California disaster declaration on Tuesday.
Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen held a press conference in Ventura the same day explaining what that would mean to all who were affected by the Thomas Fire.
Secretary Nielsen visited the burned areas on Tuesday. She took an hour-long aerial view of the damage caused by the wildfire from Ventura to Santa Barbara.
“Seeing the devastation I am deeply moved and I just want to thank all of the first responders," said Secretary Nielsen. "My heart goes out to the survivors. We met with some of them today, but in terms of the State and local leadership I want to applaud them for their dedication and steadfast and tireless work that they did throughout the holiday season.”
Secretary Nielsen stressed that all affected will continue to have the full support of the federal government.
“I am pleased to announce that in response to the devastation that the President has declared a major disaster for the County of Ventura, and Santa Barbara which will release the public assistance," said Secretary Nielsen. "This is an important step to recovery and FEMA is prepared to help communities throughout California to rebuild.”
Seventy-five percent of the cost to fight the fire will be federally funded. The major disaster that was just declared will help in the recovery portion.
“It specifically provides public assistance," said Robert Fenton, from FEMA. "It will help with reimbursement of debris removal and help with threats to the watershed of the fire and rebuilding public infrastructure.”
Federal funding is available to the State and to eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
“We know in this particular event there was a lot of watersheds that were damaged and so one of the things we are doing now is going out and looking at those areas," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. "The areas that have the highest priority that could have mudflows or flash flooding, we will go in and clear those area's out.”
While Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) welcomes FEMA's announcement of public assistance for the largest fire in California history, she expresses disappointment regarding individual assistance and released the following statement:
“I am pleased that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen came to Ventura today to see firsthand the damage to our area and the immense loss that so many of our friends and neighbors are facing due to the Thomas Fire.
“I am also pleased that President Trump has finally approved some of Governor Brown’s request for FEMA disaster recovery assistance for Ventura County to help our community rebuild. Specifically, Public Assistance has been approved to help with damage to state and local public infrastructure.
Under certain circumstances, private nonprofit organizations are also eligible to apply. FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance has also been approved, which will help to address hazards posed by debris and the potential for mudslides.
“Unfortunately, the President has not yet approved Individual Assistance. As I expressed to Secretary Nielsen in our meeting today, I strongly agree with Governor Brown that the threshold for Individual Assistance has been met, and I will continue to work with the President, and federal, state, and local officials, to ensure a full review of Ventura County’s eligibility is completed.
Our community needs additional resources as we recover from this horrible fire, which has left many families without a home, destroyed numerous businesses, and left many workers without jobs or income to support their families.”