valley fire

Victims of East County Valley Fire Can Now Apply For Federal Aid

The Trump administration initially denied California's request for assistance, but reversed course days later

A car burned by the Valley Fire.
NBC 7

What to Know

  • Those affected by the Valley Fire in East San Diego County have three options to apply for federal aid
  • The Trump administration initially denied California's request for assistance, but reversed course days later
  • The Valley Fire destroyed 30 homes and damaged several more. 2 people were hurt. At one point, more than 1,400 people were under evacuation due to the blaze's spread

Victims of the September's 16,000-acre Valley Fire in San Diego's East County can now apply for federal aid after the Trump Administration approved California's application for disaster relief funds for wildfires across the state, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) announced.

San Diego County is among seven California counties receiving federal assistance from the state's Major Disaster Declaration request submitted on Sept. 28. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may be able to provide eligible applicants with grants to pay for rent, home repair, medical costs, or other disaster-related expenses.

Those affected by the wildfire should register for federal assistance online here, on the FEMA mobile app, or by calling the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362 between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Applicants will be asked to provide a Social Security Number, insurance policy information, some other personal information and a description of their fire-related damage.

Federal major disaster declarations allow for cost-sharing for damage, cleanup and rebuilding between the state and federal governments. They also activate relief programs led by FEMA.

The Trump administration initially denied California's request for assistance, but reversed course days later following communication with the governor, Newsom said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere previously said California’s disaster declaration request “was not supported by the relevant data” needed for approval. He initially said Trump agreed with Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Pete Gaynor, who said in a three-paragraph rejection letter that the damage “was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the (state's) capabilities.”

The state had planned to appeal the denial and believed it had a strong case, Brian Ferguson, a spokesman with the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said before the reversal.

The 30-page request described the disasters and pointed out that damage assessments were incomplete because the fires were still raging and access was difficult.

It has been a disastrous wildfire season in California, with more than 8,500 blazes burning more than 6,400 square miles (16,000 square kilometers) since the start of the year. Thirty-one people have died and some 9,200 buildings have been destroyed.

The Valley Fire sparked in the Cleveland National Forest south of Alpine on Sept. 5 and wasn't fully contained for 20 days. Hundreds of fire personnel and resources were exhausted in the firefight.

The fire spread quickly and evacuations were ordered almost immediately. At one point, it forced as many as 1,420 people to leave their homes. The fast-moving fire destroyed 30 homes and 31 outbuildings -- and damaged several more -- in its early days. Two people were injured.

The cause of the Valley Fire is under investigation.

Photos: Valley Fire Scorches 17,345 Acres Near Alpine

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