Presidential Radio Address - 27 October 2007
Good morning. On Thursday, I traveled to California to visit communities ravaged by wildfires. I walked with a married couple through the charred remains of their home. I met with emergency responders. I talked with displaced families at a disaster assistance center. And I made a pledge to the people of California on behalf of all Americans: We will help you put out the fires, get through the crisis, and rebuild your lives.
State and local authorities in California were well prepared for this crisis, and they responded quickly and effectively. Officials warned those in danger, moved residents out of the path of the flames, and set up dozens of shelters for thousands of people.
State officials also reached out to the Federal government for help. And we responded. Shortly after the fires broke out, we started mobilizing and providing assistance, including the deployment of Federal firefighters and aircraft to drop fire retardant on the fires. As high winds spread the fires, Governor Schwarzenegger requested more Federal help. Within one hour of that request, we approved an emergency declaration that authorized Federal agencies across the government to help state and local responders save lives, protect property, and maintain public health and safety.
On Wednesday, I issued a second declaration. This action made additional Federal funding available to the residents of the counties affected by the wildfires, so they can recover and rebuild. This Federal assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repair, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, loans for small business owners, and funding to help clean up debris.
I was impressed by the performance of the first responders I met in California. Despite the challenges of high winds and dry weather, firefighters are gaining the upper hand and earning the gratitude of their fellow citizens. Many of these brave men and women have battled the blaze in triple-digit heat. Some have worked around the clock. And more than once, firefighting teams were forced to take emergency shelter in their fire tents when threatened by approaching walls of flame. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet them, and I thank them for their courage.
I was also encouraged by the spirit of the families I met. At one recovery center, I met an amazing young girl named Alyssa Lamborn. Alyssa told me, "I lost my house, but I didn't lose my home -- because my family and my pets are safe." I saw this same spirit in many others who are grateful for their safety and determined to rebuild.
People like Alyssa and her family are receiving help from their fellow Americans. Some have opened their homes to strangers who were evacuated and could not find a hotel room. Doctors and nurses have answered the call to help seniors who were forced from their nursing homes. And volunteers from every walk of life have come forward to provide food, clothing, and blankets -- and a shoulder to lean on.
I went to Southern California with a message: We want you to know the country cares for you. We're concerned about you, your neighborhoods, and your homes. Things may look dismal now, but there is a better day ahead. And we will not forget you in Washington, D.C.
Thank you for listening.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).