President Trump has declared a major disaster in California over a wildfire that destroyed more than 1,000 buildings as fierce winds whipped it through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties last month, the AP reports. The declaration makes federal funding available to state and local governments and some nonprofit organizations for emergency work in those counties and statewide for work to reduce hazards related to the fire, according to a White House statement. The Thomas fire that began on Dec. 4 is the largest recorded in the state. It was 92% contained on Tuesday. Firefighters are still putting out hot spots and smoldering areas. The fire covered more than 440 square miles, killed two people, destroyed entire neighborhoods, threatened coastal foothill communities, and ravaged wilderness areas.
Firefighting costs alone have approached $200 million. The disaster declaration means the federal government may cover 75% of those costs and the costs of recovering from the blaze, such as removing vast amounts of debris in fire-denuded areas that could be hit with flash floods and debris flows if winter rains arrive. After a flight over the devastated area on Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the president's declaration will help with rebuilding from the fire, which burned more than 700 homes along with other buildings. Trump has already approved a major disaster declaration for the wildfires that killed 44 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes in northern California in October.
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