President Donald Trump on Sunday criticized California's Democratic governor for his handling of wildfires and made a vague threat to cut aid as blazes continue to burn in the northern and southern parts of the state. The comments are the latest installment of the president's long-standing grievance with California, a state that has clashed with Trump's administration, particularly on issues of environmental regulation.
In Trump's first significant mention of California's wildfires on Twitter since the massive Kincade Fire broke out in late October, the president accused Gov. Gavin Newsom of doing a "terrible" job of forest management.
As he has before, Trump made several erroneous claims about the causes of and potential solutions for the wildfires while claiming that he had told Newsom previously to "clean" the forest floors. Trump also insinuated that he would end federal aid to California for its wildfire response.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment seeking clarification about his statements, including what specific funding Trump was speaking of when he declared "no more."
Trump's Sunday tweets are a retread of remarks he has made in the past about California's wildfires. In January, he threatened to cut off Federal Emergency Management Agency aid to the state as it grappled with the destruction from a deadly and devastating 2018 fire season. It was unclear whether he had the authority to do so.
The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must “clean” his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2019
....putting these massive, and many, fires out. Great firefighters! Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2019
In decrying California's forestry management, he has also suggested that wildfires can be mitigated by cleaning or "raking" the forest floor. While fire prevention generally includes some level of debris management, scientists and fire-prevention experts agree that California's wildfire situation is largely fueled by complex factors related to climate change: Intensifying heat dries out vegetation, creating a tinderbox situation come fire season, during which hot air and intense - sometimes even hurricane-force - winds spread the easily fueled fire.
Last year's Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in California history, was sparked by equipment operated by the utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric Co.Trump has a pattern of wrapping his remarks on climate-fueled crises on the West Coast with barbs aimed at Democratic leadership in states such as California, Washington and Oregon. Though the president focused his attack on Newsom, the majority of California's forests are managed by the federal government.
Several of the largest wildfires of this year's season aren't burning in forests: The Getty Fire and others near Los Angeles broke out in vegetation-dominated hillsides rather than in state or federal forests. California typically experiences its rainy season during this time of year, but no showers are in sight near L.A. If the rains hold off, fire danger will remain a significant threat possibly through November and even into December.
As the president threatened to cut federal dollars to their state, Californians have endured historic blackouts, mandatory evacuations and, in hundreds of cases, the loss of their home. At least five people have died in wildfire-related cases since October.
While Newsom has been open with his own criticisms of Trump, he offered a positive assessment of the Trump administration's response to the recent spate of wildfires."I have nothing but good things to say about the federal government's support," Newsom said in October, according to the Los Angeles Times. "In fact, the Homeland Security acting director proactively called me two days ago to check in. … Hats off to them."