President Donald Trump visited California this weekend to tour areas devastated by wildfires that burned out of control across the state and once again blamed forest management for the fires spreading so quickly. The president went to a neighborhood in Paradise, California, as well as parts of Malibu.
As the fires burned last week, Trump tweeted his initial response, blaming forest management: “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!”
This comment drew backlash from many, including Brian K. Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, who told CNN: “The President’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.”
But Trump reiterated his ill-conceived comments in California on Saturday. “We will be talking about forest management,” he said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It should have been a lot different situation.” He also mentioned Finland, saying that they “spend a lot of time on raking” leaves and “cleaning and doing things” to prevent forest fires.
1. Trump visits CA and is still going on about raking: "You gotta take care of the floors…very important…"
2. Yesterday it was the "Governor of a state he visited" that gave him his forestry expertise, today it's the President of Finland.
3. Poor @GavinNewsom. pic.twitter.com/XqsZOylAMC
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) November 17, 2018
On Sunday, Finnish president Sauli Niinisto said that he discussed forest management with Trump during the recent Armistice Day events in Paris – “We take care of our forests,” Ninnisto told Trump, mentioning surveillance and other methods – but admitted he didn’t know where Trump concocted the raking idea, the Associated Press reported.
Some Twitter users snarkily responded to Trump’s comments on raking with the hashtag #RakeAmericaGreatAgain.
There are 45,864,800 acres of Federal land in California. It costs $5500/acre to clean wooded land. So for only $252billion per year Trump could clear out the land. His next (after the wall) infrastructure project? #RakeAmericaGreatAgain
— Lizzie Anne Parker (@PinehurstRare) November 17, 2018
When asked whether the fires had changed the president’s mind on climate change, Trump oddly replied, “No, no, I have a strong opinion. I want a great climate. We’re going to have that. And we’re going to have forests that are very safe. Because we can’t go through this every year.”
Donald Trump: "I have a strong opinion. I want great climate. We're going to have that and we're going to have forests that are very safe" pic.twitter.com/XlZin3xMrG
— Edward Hardy (@EdwardTHardy) November 18, 2018
While Trump was touring damaged areas, The Guardian interviewed evacuees in a Walmart parking lot in Chico, California. One man, Kirk Ellsworth, said his adult children’s homes were destroyed by the flames. Ellsworth said he had been a Trump supporter, but the president’s reaction to the fires made him reconsider. “My kids lost everything. I voted for him — and now? He can kiss my red ass. What he said was ridiculous. It hurts my heart. A lot of us voted for him and he [talks] down to us?”
“We are not the ones to blame. We are not in charge of managing the forest,” another evacuee, Ryan Belcher, told The Guardian, adding, “I hope he sees how this community has come together… People are still here helping us. It’s an amazing thing and I hope he sees that.”
Michael Reasons, who lived in Paradise, told the Chico Enterprise-Record that he was not impressed with Trump’s visit either. “For me, it doesn’t make a bit of difference,” he said. “I know what kind of person he really is.”
However, another Paradise resident, Ambrose Reuter, said that while he didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump, he appreciated Trump coming to California. “It meant a lot that he came out personally,” Reuter told the Enterprise-Record.
While in California, Trump visited with the first responders and families of victims of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, that took place on November 7. The visit lasted less than half an hour.
It’s a shame, though, that Trump did not comment on Smokey the Bear, the cartoon character whose catchphrase is, “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Apparently Trump is not a fan. In a 2015 tweet, he called Smokey “tedious” and questioned who was funding him.
Who is paying for that tedious Smokey Bear commercial that is on all the time – enough already!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2015