The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is denying that it ever received an order to stop sending aid to areas in California affected by deadly wildfires.
“We never got any such directive,” Brandi Richard, a FEMA spokeswoman, stated to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday. “That’s evidenced by the fact that work is still being done and we continue to support wildfire survivors across the state.” The Department of Homeland Security confirmed this statement via information obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request.
Another FEMA official was “unable to locate or identify any responsive records” that would indicate the agency was ordered to stop aiding California’s wildfire damage.
The revelations run counter to a claim President Donald Trump made in early January. The president, who has long criticized California’s forest management system, said he ordered FEMA to stop sending the state money.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen,” he tweeted on Jan. 9. “Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”
The state of California was rocked with a series devastating wildfires since October 2017, upending the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living in the state. The Hill and Woolsey Fires in Southern California have resulted in hundreds of burned buildings and thousands forced to evacuate, while the Camp Fire in Northern California became the state’s deadliest in history. (RELATED: SCOOP: Trump Will Officially End Negotiations With California On Fuel Economy Rollbacks)
Over 26,000 residents have applied for disaster assistance as of Jan. 8.
Rampant speculation over the exact cause of the fires have since ensued. Former Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown, for example, pointed to climate change. Trump has blamed “poor” forest management by California officials. However, equipment from the state’s largest electric utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., may be responsible for at least some of the fires.
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