US President Joe Biden is surveying the damage caused by wildfires in California and Idaho on Monday, where he is expected to promote his administration's use of a wartime law to aid in wildfire preparedness.
The Biden administration had activated the Defense Production Act in early August in order to boost supplies from the US Forest Service's primary firehose supplier. This was the second time this law was used, the first time being to boost COVID vaccine supplies.
The use of the act helped an Oklahoma City nonprofit called NewView Oklahoma, the provider of the bulk of the US Forest Service's hoses, obtain needed supplies to produce and ship 415 miles of firehoses. Biden has reportedly planned to showcase the move as part of his administration's efforts to address yet another devastating wildfire season across the Western US
The president flew first to Boise, where he was to meet with federal and state fire officials at the National Interagency Fire Center. Later he was to travel to Sacramento, California, to survey wildfire damage and deliver remarks about the federal response.
He will end his day in Long Beach for an election-eve event with California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall vote on Tuesday.
Biden's Western visit is aimed primarily at drumming up support for his massive $3.5 trillion spending plan by linking it to beating back wildfires and upgrading social programs.
In the two-day trip, which includes a stop in Colorado on Tuesday, Biden is looking to connect the dots for Americans between the increasing frequency of wildfires in the West — as well other extreme weather events around the country — and a need to invest billions in combating climate change as well as in a vast expansion of the social safety net.
In deep-red Idaho, several opposing groups were leveraging Biden's trip as a way to show resistance to his administration. GOP gubernatorial candidates, an anti-vaccine organization, and a far-right group were among those urging people to turn out against the president.
Biden's eleventh-hour election pitch in California comes the day before voters head to the polls to decide whether to recall Newsom and then replace him with Republican talk-show host Larry Elder, who's seen as the leading GOP alternative, or with any of the dozens of other candidates on the ballot.
The White House is trying to turn the corner after a difficult month consumed by a chaotic and violent withdrawal from Afghanistan and the surging delta COVID-19 variant that have upended what the president had hoped would mark a summer in which the nation was finally freed from the coronavirus.
The Biden administration in June laid out a strategy to deal with the growing wildfire threat, which included hiring more federal firefighters and implementing new technologies to detect and address fires quickly. Last month, the president approved a disaster declaration for California, providing federal aid for the counties affected by the Dixie and River fires. Just ahead of Monday's visit he issued another disaster declaration for the state, this time aimed at areas affected by the Caldor Fire.
(With AP inputs)