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Pelosi Statement on California Wildfires

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon on the need for federal assistance to help fight the wildfires in California and help the hundreds of thousands of residents affected by the fires:

'As we gather here this afternoon, wildfires are raging in my home state of California. The President has declared an emergency.  I hope that it will be limited to that, but the way the fire is raging, I'm afraid it may come to the point of a major disaster.

'The governor of California, Governor Schwarzenegger, has just reported that 750 homes have been totally destroyed, 68,000 homes are in danger, 250,000 acres of land, an area the size of the entire city of New York, has been devastated by the fire, much of it wilderness areas. In addition, 365,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.

'In any consideration of what is happening there, it's very important to salute our firefighters for their courage and their tireless efforts to end this fire, which is a tough battle because of the winds - hopefully they will die down soon.  It is possible that if the fire continues to rage, we may have to appeal to the President to declare this a major disaster, and therefore eliminate any capping of support that we would have for California.  And that would have implications, as we know, for other fires that may occur in our country. 

'This is when the American people look to government to step up to the plate and to be there for them.  The firefighters are doing their share; the people are acting in a very responsible way in the evacuations; the local government is doing well, according to what the governor says; and of course, the state of California has this as an emergency of the highest order. So far, they have been able to avail themselves of whatever is available from the federal government. We may have to expand on that as the fires continue to rage.

'But to those who have suffered personal losses, whether it's the loss of a loved one, personal injury, loss of their homes and their communities, I extend the deepest sympathy and the fullest support as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

'With that, I urge my colleagues to support Mr. Boucher's bipartisan legislation to protect the VirginiaCalifornia, inform my colleagues of the extent of the damage that we know to date, and the need that we have for support.  This compact between the people and the federal government is never called upon more strongly than in the time of a natural disaster of this kind.'