Obama declares major disaster in California fire

President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in a Northern California wildfire that has destroyed at least 1,200 homes and killed at least three people.

The declaration issued yesterday for the fire that broke out in Lake County 90 miles (145 kilometres) north of San Francisco releases federal money for recovery and cleanup, including grant money for temporary housing and home repairs.

The devastating wildfire that started September 12 ranks among California’s most destructive and stands at 75 per cent contained with 118 square miles (306 square kilometrse) scorched. Thousands of people fled their homes at the peak of the fire, and two men remain missing, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office yesterday.

Sheriff Brian Martin said at a news conference yesterday that his office had received reports of 15 people missing since the fire started. All have been accounted for except the two men. “We are hopeful these people are located and returned and reunited with their loved ones,” he said.

The fire has claimed the lives of three people.

Several areas remained under an evacuation order more than a week after the fire’s start as crews continue to clear debris and trees and restore damaged power lines.

California Gov Jerry Brown requested disaster declarations for the fire in Lake County as well as another destructive wildfire in Calaveras and Amador counties, about 125 miles (200 kilometres) east of San Francisco.

Federal officials are still working on the request for the other fire, said Kelly Huston, deputy director for the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.