US’ Kamala Harris touts wildfire aid on California trip – Taiwan News

  • AP, SAN BERNARDINO, California

After a difficult first year in office, US Vice President Kamala Harris enjoyed a homecoming on Friday, taking a helicopter tour in Southern California mountains to highlight new funding for federal wildfire programs.

She was joined by California Governor Gavin Newsom and US Senator Alex Padilla, who represents the state. Both are Harris’ friends and fellow Democrats.

They inspected wildfire damage from the sky, visited a federal fire station where they heard about the increasing risk of destructive blazes and outlined new spending aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires and dealing with their aftermath.

Photo: AFP

She also announced US$600 million in disaster relief funding for the US Forest Service in California.

In brief remarks, Harris hailed the work of firefighters and credited collaboration between governments “unencumbered by politics,” an apparent reference to past friction between heavily Democratic California and the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

She said that the US government is “putting the resources where they are needed” in the battle against fires and climate change.

However, the day was not entirely without political drama.

A sprinkle of protesters joined onlookers along the motorcade’s route to the fire station, where a lone protester waved a US flag and shouted a derogatory slogan about US President Joe Biden.

Harris’ first year in office was framed by COVID-19, a fruitless battle over voting rights legislation and an immigration crisis at the border.

The trip to her home state gave the vice president a chance to revel in hearty applause.

She and the Biden administration were praised repeatedly for their direction on wildfires and the climate.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called her leadership “unmatched.”

Harris’ office highlighted recently passed legislation that provided US$1 billion to create plans to help defend communities from wildfires, US$650 million for rehabilitation efforts for burned areas and nearly US$2.4 billion for hazardous fuels management.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration said it would expand efforts to fight wildfires by thinning forests around “hot spots” where nature and neighborhoods collide.

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