President Donald Trump on Saturday declared the wildfires raging in California a major disaster. The declaration will allow federal funds to be used by people and businesses harmed by the fires in seven counties to pay for temporary housing, home repairs, and other needs.
More than two dozen massive wildfires continued to ravage parts of California early Sunday morning, fueled by high temperatures and ongoing lightning strikes, including 100 that struck on Friday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
The president had previously threatened to withhold federal funding due to California’s failure to manage its forests.
“I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests—there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up,” the president said at a rally on Thursday. “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” he added
The declaration opens up federal funds to people in the counties of Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo.
The wildfires have already claimed five lives. Forty-three firefighters and civilians have been hurt, according to CalFire.
Wildfire is threatening parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, the forested region near the University of California at Santa Cruz, and a wide swath of the area between San Francisco and the state capital of Sacramento.
California asked other states and local jurisdictions in California to help as nearly 14,000 firefighters battled the blazes but could not yet contain of the largest fires.
“They’re scrambling for bodies” to help fight the fires, said Jay Tracy, a fire marshal with the city of Fresno who was deployed as a spokesman for the LNU fire complex.
The LNU fire complex had burned 314,000 acres in five counties, including some of the state’s storied wine country and communities between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Firefighters have improved containment of the southern edge of that fire, but winds are expected to push it northwest toward the wine country towns of Healdsburg and Guernville, Tracy said.
Additional lightning storms are expected later this weekend, and the danger of new or growing wildfire is extreme, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
The fires increased modestly in size on Saturday after more than doubling on Friday, becoming some of the largest in state history and threatening small towns in the path of the flames.
About 175,000 people were told to leave their homes, although many in the community around Vacaville between Sacramento and San Francisco have been allowed to return.
In Santa Cruz, a city of around 65,000 people on California’s central coast, residents were told to prepare “go bags” as bulldozers cut fire lines and flames came within a mile of the University of California Santa Cruz campus.
Reuters contributed to this report.