Carol Bretonne, 78, stood in line behind more than a dozen people, waiting for the doors of a Malibu courthouse to open. The courthouse was serving as a disaster center for victims of the Woolsey fire.
Bretonne wanted to find out what services would be offered to help rebuild her Malibu home. It was her second time she lost everything.
A 1978 blaze swallowed her house. A year later, she started construction on the boxy structure that was consumed in the Woolsey blaze. Now, she wondered if she could shoulder the high cost of debris removal, which her insurance doesn’t cover.
“We lost our neighborhood,” she said. A week after she lost her home, Bretonne also lost her mother to old age. The double tragedies have left her unconcerned about President Trump, who Saturday afternoon was making his way to Malibu to assess wildfire damage.
President Trump’s rhetoric on California’s wildfires has been a source of consternation for some.
Last week, he was widely criticized for blaming the state’s deadly fires on poor forest management, an idea experts were quick to debunk. But during his visit to Paradise, Calif., on Saturday morning, Trump made similar comments about forest management.
Addressing reporters after surveying what was left of the Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park, Trump praised Finland, which he called “a forest nation” for doing things differently.
“They spend a lot of time raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem," he told reporters Saturday. ‘I know everybody’s looking at that.”
Twitter users quickly responded, using the hashtag #RakeAmericaGreatAgain to criticize the president’s statements.
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
As President Trump makes his second visit to California since taking office, to view the damage caused by the deadly Camp and Woolsey fires, those who were forced to flee questioned his motives Saturday.
Carrie Armstrong, 57, of Topanga said she read the statement Trump posted on Twitter as the Woolsey fire in Malibu raged through the canyon and threatened her home. That tweet, posted a week ago, blamed the wildfires on poor forest management and misappropriation of funds.
For Armstrong, the erroneous remark added what she said was a new level of betrayal by the president.
On the morning the Camp fire broke out, Pam Weaver was talking to her cousin on the phone about California’s recovery from the Santa Rosa fires last year.
Just then, she looked out her window and saw embers flying everywhere. She had to evacuate.
One week later, Weaver waited in line Saturday at the disaster recovery center at the Chico Mall. The line at the center, managed by Butte County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was hundreds of people long, snaking around the building.
The president was accompanied by White House senior advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Ken Calvert (R-Corona). Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom met Trump on the tarmac, according to a White House pool report.
Trump was roundly criticized last week for erroneously blaming the fires on poor forest management and threatening to cut off funding to California. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), who was also traveling with the president on Saturday, talked to reporters on the significance of forest management before Air Force One landed in California.
The toll of destruction from the Woolsey fire continues to increase as crew assess the burned landscape.
As of Saturday morning, officials said the fire had destroyed 836 structures. It has burned 98,362 acres and is 82% contained. Three people have died in the blaze, which burned through Ventura County and into Malibu in coastal Los Angeles County.
Cal Fire said 70% of the damage assessment has been completed.
The survivors of Paradise aren’t the only ones with a story to tell about the fire that destroyed their town.
Buried within the harrowing tales of escape and heart-wrenching loss suffered by Paradise’s 27,000 residents, among the charred Ponderosa pines and scorched rubble, are clues to what transpired when a small fire broke out nearby on the morning of Nov. 8 and swallowed the town in a matter of hours.
While thousands of firefighters currently battle the Camp fire in Butte County and hundreds of law enforcement officers search for human remains among the ruins, it’s up a few dozen California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection investigators to read what the forest — and the buildings both standing and destroyed within it — has to tell them about why the Camp fire chose to destroy what it did that day.
President Trump arrived in Northern California at about 10 a.m. Saturday to tour areas ravaged by the Camp fire.
Trump was met at Beale Air Force Base in Yuba County by Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.
In a tweet earlier Saturday morning, the president said he would be accompanied by California Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Doug LaMalfa and Ken Calvert and meet with firefighters who battled the 148,000-acre fire.