Trump Approves Major Disaster Declaration for California Wildfires, Pence Announces in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO — Vice President Mike Pence offered gratitude Tuesday to firefighters battling California wildfires and pledged federal support, marking a contrast with President Donald Trump, who hasn’t yet publicly commented on the crisis.

The Trump administration has made a federal major disaster declaration for California, Pence also announced in Mather during a quick stop at the Office of Emergency Services.

Pence also spoke on the issue Monday night at a tax reform event in Sacramento, telling Californians, “We will see you through these challenging times.”

He vowed the federal government is ready to help as wildfires rip through parts of the state, adding that he spoke with California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to assure him “the federal government stands ready to provide assistance as your first responders confront this challenge.”

Pence was briefed by firefighters in Orange County, where he saw the fires from the air as he traveled to Santa Ana.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders addressed the wildfires in a statement Tuesday before her daily press briefing.

“Our hearts go out the people of California who are enduring the wildfires that are taking place now. The loss of homes and burning of precious land is heartbreaking, but the loss of life is truly devastating,” she said, adding that Trump spoke with Brown Monday night.

Trump himself has not yet spoken out publicly on the crisis. He has also not yet visited California, the country’s most populous state, nearly nine months into his term.

On Monday, Brown — a frequent critic of Trump — wrote a letter to the President requesting federal emergency aid for the fires, writing he “determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments, and supplemental federal assistance is necessary.”

More than a dozen wildfires raged across Northern California on Tuesday morning, with the biggest ones scorching the state’s famous wine country, killing at least 15 people and burning more than 2,000 homes and businesses, authorities said.

The fires are burning in California’s wine country destinations — Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties — as well as Yuba County with flames ripping through the lush, picturesque landscape.