Gov. Jerry Brown calls devastating wildfires the 'new normal,' requests disaster declaration

REDDING, Calif. – California Gov. Jerry Brownviewed fire damage to a Redding neighborhood Saturday and said he is optimistic President Donald Trump will declare a major disaster that would bring additional relief to the area.

The Carr Fire has burned more than a thousand homes and shows no signs of stopping just yet.

Brown toured Lake Redding Estates where about 65 homes were either damaged or leveled to the ground.

“We’re vulnerable as much as any people are anywhere in the world,” Brown said in a press conference at the Shasta District Fairgrounds. “This is part of a trend, a new normal, and we’ve got to deal with it,”

Although Brown often has spoken directly about the link between climate change and wildfires in the past, he did not reference that specifically during his remarks Saturday.

Brown has asked Trump to declare a major disaster to secure federal aid for Shasta County as it rebuilds from the fire.

“The president’s been pretty good on helping us in disasters, so I’m hopeful,” he said.

The Carr Fire, which broke out July 23, has become the sixth-most destructive wildfire in California history.

“Life has its tragedies, we have fire, we have floods, we have mudslides, we have many other things. And here we just had a fire tornado,” he said.

That twister, which spun up on July 26, had winds reaching 143 mph and was equal to an EF-3 tornado on the five-level Enhanced Fujita Scale, according to a preliminary report from the National Weather Service.

“This fire was different than any other fire. And the fire next year, next month, that’ll be different, too,” Brown said. “We’re pretty smart, we’re pretty rich. But relative to nature and its complexities, we’re all students and we have to learn it.”

Brown said this involves re-examining how forests are managed, how and where houses are built and how much to invest in fire protection services.

Asked about how people were alerted about the fire and evacuations, Brown said there’s room for improvement and that people should also “rely on themselves" because "there’s only so many government personnel.”

“Neighbors have a role, because we’re not all just dependent on government," Brown said. "We’re free American citizens and we take action. And that’s what people do particularly in this part of California and that’s all to the good.”

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said residents were told about evacuations through an alert system that includes reverse 911 calls for landlines, code reds for people who register their cellphones and the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System that sends notifications to mobile devices based on cell tower location.

Bosenko said law enforcement also knocked on people’s doors to get them out of the area and used bullhorns. But when the “fast-moving fire” jumped the Sacramento River, some people only had minutes to escape, he said.

“It was difficult to get out ahead of,” he said.

Bosenko said the velocity of the blaze led to “chaos and pandemonium." He added that Daniel Bush, 62, who was one of six people to die in the fire, had been asked to evacuate early on, but Bush was unable to do so due to recent heart surgery.

Bosenko said he but hopes people with disabilities and medical conditions will give themselves extra time early on to evacuate folks who may have medical concerns or disabilities.

“Use that feeling of anxiety and perhaps fear, to evacuate ahead of time,” he said.

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