On a visit to California to survey the devastation from the wildfires, President Donald Trump toured a neighborhood street in Paradise, California — one of the communities most dramatically impacted by the historic “Camp Fire” — where the homes were reduced entirely to rubble.
“This is very sad to see,” Trump said as he stood with the governor, the mayor of Paradise and other local officials on the destroyed street. “As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet.”
“Nobody would have ever thought this could have happened,” Trump said, as he pledged the full support of the federal government in the recovery efforts.
The raging wildfires have already claimed at least 74 lives and up to 1,000 people are still missing. The Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed at least 71 people, is considered the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.
When the president arrived in California beneath hazy, smoke-filled skies Saturday, he was greeted by FEMA Director Brock Long, Gov. Jerry Brown and the governor-elect, Gavin Newsom.
In a tweet, Brown, who has feuded with Trump on several issues, welcomed the president to his state.
“Tomorrow @GavinNewsom and I will join @POTUS during his visit to the state,” he tweeted Friday. “Now is a time to pull together for the people of California.”
Trump said he’ll be stopping at two of the most devastated areas, and applauded the firefighters for being “unbelievably brave” as they’ve battled the fires.
The president also reiterated his criticism — which first appeared as a tweet — that poor fire management is to blame for the severity of the fires, and pointed to Finland as an example of how to better maintain forests.
“We do have to do management maintenance and we’ll be working also with environmental groups, I think everyone’s seen the light,” Trump said. “The floors of the forest are very important. You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland, and he said we have a much different — we’re a forest nation. He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem.”
Trump added that it could have been “a lot different situation” if we had been talking about forest management earlier. “It should have been done many years ago but I think everybody is on the right side. It’s a big issue,” he said.
Though the president asserted that there is agreement on the issue of forest management, California officials, including a top-ranked fire official, have slammed his criticism. California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice called Trump’s assertion of forest management “ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.”
Trump has been less willing to acknowledge the role that global warming plays in contributing to the drought and heat conditions that make wildfires more likely in California.
In an interview with FOX News, he said, “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem is management.”