Thursday, January 4, 2018 - 10:30

(TNS) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen became the first Cabinet-level official in the Trump administration to tour Northern California’s wildfire devastation, saying Wednesday that the White House would fully back recovery efforts.

Nielsen’s visit to Santa Rosa didn’t come with any new financial commitments, but it marked a show of support for California as the state muscles for a share of billions of dollars in federal aid being earmarked for states and U.S. territories devastated by hurricanes and other disasters in 2017.

Nielsen’s department oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has been working with state and local officials to find shelter for fire victims and clear remnants of the more than 8,000 buildings that burned last year. Nielsen said crews have so far removed debris weighing nearly as much as the Golden Gate Bridge.

“The fires left many Californians with the daunting task of recovery,” she said at a news conference in the fire-ravaged Coffey Park neighborhood. “We will be here with arms locked with state and community officials.”

Before the briefing, Nielsen toured the badly burned Fountaingrove neighborhood and met privately with a handful of local leaders.

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