President Donald Trump reupped his threats toward California on Saturday as it deals with deadly wildfires in the northern part of the state and the evacuation of thousands of people from smoldering homes near Los Angeles.
In a tweet, the president threatened to pull federal funding for the state if nothing is done to “remedy” the situation of recurring devastating wildfires and the response to these disasters.
There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
Trump was tweeting while in Paris to take part in a commemoration for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, a diplomatic test of his testy relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron.
His comments drew mostly critical response from firefighting leadership in California.
Mr. President, with all due respect, you are wrong. The fires in So. Cal are urban interface fires and have NOTHING to do with forest management. Come to SoCal and learn the facts & help the victims. Scott Austin, Pres IAFF 809. @IAFFNewsDesk https://t.co/d3jY0SeosF
— Pasadena Fire Assn. (@PFA809)
At least nine people have died in the spate of wildfires this week, which are devastating thousands of acres. Most of the deaths were in the area of Paradise, Calif., near Chico. Almost the entire city of Paradise was decimated by flames early Friday.
The Woolsey Fire near L.A. exploded to more than 14,000 acres after starting Thursday in a tinder-dry canyon of Ventura County. It raced toward the Pacific Ocean and prompted mandatory evacuations of as many as 75,000 homes as of Friday, all the way to the coast in Malibu, where officials have confirmed two deaths, according to local television news.
Trump approved an emergency declaration for the state on Friday, but warned he may not do the same again. Emergency declarations provide municipalities with air support, relief supplies and evacuation transport.
It’s not the first time Trump has criticized forest management in the state.
In August, Trump tweeted: “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!”
Fire officials at that time took issue with Trump’s statements.
“We have plenty of water to fight these fires,” Deputy Cal Fire Chief Scott McLean said in a statement in August. “Nonetheless, the Trump administration announced it would override the Endangered Species Act to provide extra water — not needed by the fire crews.”
Trump also criticized California’s handling of forest fires at an Oct. 17 cabinet meeting, telling Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue that California was “a mess” and “disgraceful.”
On Saturday, Brian Rice, the president of the California Professional Firefighters, wrote to Trump that his assessment of the policies are “dangerously wrong,” stressing that “natural disasters are not red or blue” politically. A copy of the letter was tweeted and drew two-sided reactions — including some critical of Trump’s response and others pointing to policies that they suggest leave too many dead trees standing.