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 Home > News & Policies > October 2007

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 25, 2007

President Bush Discusses California Wildfires
Kit Carson Park
Escondido, California

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12:24 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Governor, thank you very much. First thing I want to let the people know out here in Southern California is that many across our nation have been moved by the plight of the citizens who have lost their homes, lost their possessions, and particularly those who have lost their life. It's very important for those who are wondering about their future to know there's a lot of good citizens all across America who are praying for your future, and who really want to stand with you.

I appreciate the leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger. I said earlier when we were at the neighborhood, there's no hill he's not willing to charge, no problem he's not willing to solve. And we've got a problem out here, and I appreciate his leadership. It makes a significant difference when you have somebody in the statehouse willing to take the lead. I've come to make sure that the federal government provides the help for people here at the local level.

I do want to thank Senator Feinstein for joining us. I want to thank the local mayors, statehouse folks, the congresspeople for being with us, as well.

Really, it's important for me to come out here and see firsthand the situation. And there's no question a lot of people are suffering. And there's no question there's been terrible losses. I also am out here to make sure these firefighters behind me and the first responders know how much I appreciate and how much the country appreciates their courage and bravery. (Applause.) Firefighters are on the scene and on the front lines. The police have helped maintain order. Emergency medical teams have treated the sick. And our National Guard personnel is providing very important assistance. It turns out when the President shows up, so does a lot of the other brass. I'm proud to be here with General Tuck*, who runs the entire National Guard bureau. (Applause.)

All of us associated with the federal government, Governor, are here to make sure that the resources at our disposal are deployed to help you. And that's why there's all kinds of people from all different departments at the federal level, to assess the needs, to listen to the concerns, and to respond. And that's exactly what we've been doing, and that's exactly what we'll continue to do.

As the Governor mentioned, I did issue an emergency declaration which allows federal agencies across the government to help state and local authorities. It empowers FEMA to provide vital supplies as well as to pay emergency grants to help pay for the cost of firefighting, evacuation shelters, and traffic control.

Our Department of Agriculture and Interior have provided elite firefighters and equipment. As I mentioned, the Department of Defense is in this to help you through NORTHCOM. The military has got assets that we can help you with. General, thanks for coming. We've got a four-star general with us today; he runs NORTHCOM and the reason he's here, Governor, is to listen to you, find out what assets we can continue to deploy to help you.

As the Governor mentioned, yesterday I signed a second declaration to help California's recovery and rebuilding efforts. The major disaster declaration authorizes the release of federal funds for debris removal and long-term assistance to individuals and business owners. People affected by the fires can now apply for assistance for temporary housing and home repair and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Now people here in this part of the world are wondering, is there a number they can call to get help? And here's the number: 1-800-621-FEMA. You want to find out whether or not you qualify for help, federal help, just call 1-800-621-FEMA or go to the website FEMA.gov. And there's a third way that you can find out whether you get help, and that is through a mobile disaster recovery center that FEMA's deployed around this state. And Arnold Schwarzenegger's right. These fires are going to go out because of the bravery of the people behind us. But there's still going to be needs and concerns.

And the final reason I've come is to let you know we're not going to forget you in Washington, D.C.; that we want the people to know that there's a better day ahead; that today, your life may look dismal but tomorrow, life is going to be better; and to the extent that the federal government can help you, we want to do so.

I do want to thank all the volunteers who have stepped forth to help a neighbor in need. There's an impressive number of people that have heard the call that one of their neighbors needs help. For all of those who are volunteering their time to help somebody get their feet back on the ground, I thank you from the bottom of our nation's heart.

May God bless those who suffer, may God bless those who are helping the people who are hurting, and may God continue to bless our country. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 12:30 P.M. PDT

*General Blum