Trump threatens funding for California forest fires that didn’t happen

From left, California Governor Gavin Newsom, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, and L.A. City Mayor Eric Garcetti tour one of twelve destroyed homes in Brentwood caused by the Getty Fire.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The big fires that hit Southern California last week burned expensive Los Angeles homes, swept through lush agricultural land, closed the 405 Freeway and threatened a presidential library.

But they did not burn through large swaths of forests.

Nonetheless, President Trump weighed in Sunday on Twitter with a new critique of Caifornia’s forest management practices.

Gov. Gavin Newsom “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...


”...Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor.”

Newsom shot back with his own tweet Sunday morning: “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.”

In a statement later, the governor continued his defense of California and noted that Trump’s environmental policies were only making fire conditions in the state worse.

“We’re successfully waging war against thousands of fires started across the state in the last few weeks due to extreme weather created by climate change while Trump is conducting a full on assault against the antidotes,” he said.


His spokesman Jesse Melgar underscored the point: “The reality is that while California has increased fire prevention investments and fuel management projects, the federal government has slashed its funding of those same activities.”

Trump’s comments contrast with the types of blazes firefighters battled last week:

--The most destructive fire broke out in the heart of Los Angeles’ Westside, starting just off the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center and burning 12 homes in Brentwood.

--The Easy fire, which threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, occurred in a suburban area dotted by subdivisions and open spaces in Ventura County.

--The Maria fire burned on a mountain amid citrus and avocado groves between Santa Paula and Somis.

--The 46 fire occurred in a riverbed in Riverside County, the result of a car crash at the end of a high-speed police pursuit. The fire leaped from the riverbed to a nearby shipping container manufacturer.

--The Hillside fire did begin at the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest. But it quickly burned downhill into a San Bernardino neighborhood, which is where the fire fight occurred. It ended up burning just 200 acres but destroyed several homes.

In his Sunday tweets, Trump also seemed to threaten to cut federal funding for fires, something he’s said before.


After last year’s devastating fires in Paradise and the Malibu and Ventura County areas, Trump erroneously claimed those fires were the result of poor forest management. That sparked widespread anger in California, including among firefighters.

“We’ve got to take care of the floors, you know, the floors of the forest. It’s very important,” the president said last year, adding Finland focuses “on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem, and when it is … I know everyone is looking at that... We’ve got to take care of the floors, you know, the floors of the forest. It’s very important.”

Experts quickly noted that neither the Camp nor Woolsey fires were forest fires.

They said the fire that burned thousands of homes in Paradise, killing dozens, was a vegetation fire that became a building-to-building fire when it got into the city. The Woolsey fire was not near any forests and burned through hillside communities, open space and suburban subdivisions.

The president of Finland later said he wasn’t sure what Trump was talking about.

“We take care of our forests,” he later told an interviewer, but he couldn’t recall raking coming up during a conversation with Trump.

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