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Additional federal funds to fight Calif. wildfires

Congress was called upon to treat wildfires as a natural disaster, with no limit to federal spending.

By
Ed Adamczyk
The burned remains of houses and vehicles sit destroyed by the Valley Fire on Monday in Middletown, Calif. An additional $250 million in funding was allocated to wildfire relief. Photo by Mathew Sumner/UPI
The burned remains of houses and vehicles sit destroyed by the Valley Fire on Monday in Middletown, Calif. An additional $250 million in funding was allocated to wildfire relief. Photo by Mathew Sumner/UPI | License Photo

LAKEPORT, Calif., Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The Obama administration on Tuesday directed an additional $250 million in federal funds to fight wildfires raging in California and other western states, officials said Tuesday.

The funding is in addition to $450 million already transferred from different sectors of the federal budget to fight the fires. The additional funds accompanies an admonition from the Obama administration to Congress to begin treating wildfires as emergencies exempt from spending thresholds as hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters are considered.

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"With the dramatic growth in wildland fire over the last three decades and an expected doubling again by mid-century, it only makes sense that Congress begin treating catastrophic wildfire as the natural disaster that it is," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell wrote in a letter to Congress.

Three major wildfires are currently out of control in Northern California, the largest referred to as the Valley Fire, in Lake County. Firefighters report a 15 percent containment of the wildfire, with 67,000 acres burned thus far.

Residents were evacuated and have gathered at local high schools, awaiting permission to return home to retrieve belongings.

The fire began early Saturday and within hours increased to cover 40,000 acres. More than 2,400 firefighters were involved in containing it; and 585 homes have been burned thus far.

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