Creek Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest in September 2020. U.S. Forest Service photo
Written by Gabriel Dillard
Direct intervention by then President Donald Trump was instrumental in bringing federal aid to the mountain community in the wake of the devastating Creek Fire last year.
That was one of the revelations made by Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig during a talk with the Fresno Rotary Club on Monday afternoon.
Magsig recounted his experience during the fire that began on Sept. 4, 2020, eventually burning just shy of 380,000 acres, destroying about 920 structures and causing the evacuation of more than 25,000 people.
Magsig said he was with Rep. Tom McClintock when word came down that the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected a request to recognize the fire as a federal emergency. A call was made to then House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who reached out to Pres. Trump, who intervened with FEMA leading to the emergency declaration, Magsig said.
Regardless of politics, Magsig said that was an indicator that Trump could be a proponent of issues important to the Valley.
“President Trump was willing to engage on an issue nationally that was really a tiny issue,” Magsig said.
Magsig recounted traveling to the Creek Fire as it raged on in an effort to get eyes on the properties of his constituents and share information via social media videos. He also spoke of some of the ways the community came together to help those displaced and impacted by the fire. For example, the Church of Shaver Lake has helped more than 30 families dig new wells, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and leveraging support from anonymous donors.
He also talked about how the Shehadey Family of Producers Dairy donated an entire truckload of milk products to benefit the foothill community in wake of the fire that led to more than $500 million in damages.
“Out of a tragedy like that, it was so encouraging to watch people come together,” he said.
Magsig was asked about what caused the Creek Fire, which became officially contained at the end of December. He referred to that as the “$64 question” that is, in fact, still being investigated by the U.S. Forest Service.
He did shoot down some rumors that have been circulating about the cause of the fire. He said no evidence has been found that it was caused by an illegal marijuana grow. On the rumor that it was caused by law enforcement burning seized marijuana, he said the Sherriff’s Office buries — not burns — those sorts of materials. He also discounted that it was caused by lightning, as those weather conditions were not present at the time.
He did say arson was a possibility, but that is only speculation at this point.
Despite the economic toll inflicted by the Creek Fire — and the ongoing challenges in recovering from the disaster — Magsig repeatedly pointed out the human toll could have been much worse without the intervention of firefighters and emergency personnel.
“No lives were lost in the single largest fire in the state’s history,” he said.