President Trump renewed his criticism of California’s forestry practices Thursday as wildfires burned up and down the state, saying “many years of leaves and broken trees” are contributing to the disasters.
“I see again, the forest fires are starting. They’re starting again in California,” Trump said at a campaign event in Old Forge, Pa. “And I said, you’ve got to clean your floors. You’ve got to clean your forests.”
It was a return to an assertion Trump made after the Camp Fire in November 2018, which destroyed much of the Butte County town of Paradise and killed 84 people. Although the federal government controls more than half the forestland in California and state and local agencies oversee just 3%, the president blamed California for logging restrictions and not doing more to thin out forests.
In particular, Trump said, Finland was largely able to avoid forest fires because Finns “spend a lot of time raking.”
On Thursday, Trump said that California has had “many, many years of leaves and broken trees. And they’re like, like so flammable. You touch them and it goes up. I’ve been telling them this now for three years, but they don’t want to listen. The environment. The environment.”
The president threatened to withhold Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance to California after the 2018 fires in Butte County and elsewhere, but never did so. On Thursday, he seemed to make a similar threat.
“But they have massive fires again in California,” Trump said. “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it, because they don’t listen to us. We say you got to get rid of the leaves, you got to get rid of the debris, you got to get rid of the fallen trees.
“You know,” Trump went on, “when a tree falls, after 13 to 14 months it becomes extremely dry. You look at some of these fires, they don’t really catch where the trees are growing because they’re wet. The water’s pouring up the tree. And they just don’t want to listen. They mocked us when I said that. You got to clean your floors. Just an expression.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said Thursday that the state had been granted FEMA aid “to help ensure the availability of vital resources” to fight California’s latest blazes.
Trump’s assessment of the problem has been disputed by many forestry experts in the past. While clearing forests of heavy timber, including logging, would help reduce the fire threat in some places, many of California’s most disastrous recent fires have been in grasslands and on oak-studded hillsides. The loss of life property has been worsened because development has spread in fire-prone areas.
Climate change is another factor. In April, scientists at Columbia University, the University of Colorado, University of Idaho concluded that California and the rest of the American West had entered a prolonged period of drought in which fewer wet years will break up long dry stretches.
In taped comments delivered just before the start of the Democratic National Convention, Newsom said, “Mother Nature has now joined in this conversation around climate change, and so we too need to advance that conversation anew.”
He added, “Just today, the president of the United States threatened the state of California … to defund our efforts on wildfire suppression because he says we haven’t raked enough leaves. You can’t make that up.”
The Article was originally published on Trump on California wildfires: ‘You got to get rid of the leaves’.