Though the SCU Lightning Complex grew into one of the biggest fires in California history and now has access to state financial aid to recover, the people impacted by it still don’t qualify for federal emergency relief.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese–whose district extends into the Diablo Range wildlands torched by the SCU—is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to help change that.
The county supe today sent the governor an urgent request to help him get Santa Clara Valley added to President Trump’s major disaster declaration, which would free up FEMA funds for people recovering from the 390,000-acre fire.
People within the boundaries of a presidential major-disaster declaration area qualify for a vast range of public resources, including reimbursement for structural damage, crisis counseling, housing vouchers, unemployment benefits and legal help.
The designation also authorizes federal funds for state, local and tribal governments to afford emergency response, recover and prevention efforts.
Trump on Aug. 22 approved California’s request for major-disaster declarations spanning Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and. Yolo counties. A couple days later, he added Monterey County.
The SCU Complex that incinerated hundreds of thousands of acres in seven counties—including Santa Clara—is the biggest fire still burning in California.
But officials excluded it from the boundaries of areas eligible for federal relief because of its largely rural reach and the fact that it was less destructive to buildings and people than its counterparts burning in the North Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains.
On Sunday, Cortese surveyed the extent of the damage from the SCU fires on a tour that took him from the Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton to the rugged reaches of the San Antonio Valle back country that hundreds of his constituents call home.
“Santa Clara County must be added to the list,” he said. “Although the SCU area is not as populated as other fire areas, there are residents and cattle ranchers and others who were burned out of their homes and livelihoods and deserve access to federal assistance.”