President Trump on the Wildfire: “We have never seen anything like this in California.”
Saturday, President Donald Trump said he had to come to the heart of California’s killer wildfire to fully grasp the scale of the desolation wrought on the landscape.
“We are going to have to work quickly. … Hopefully this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one,” said the president, who pledged that improved forest management practices would diminish future risks.
“I think everybody has seen the light and I don’t think we’ll have this again to this extent,” President Trump said in Paradise, the town largely destroyed by a wildfire ignited on 8 November that he called “this Monster.”
At least 71 people have died across Northern California, and authorities are trying to locate more than 1,000 people, though not all are believed missing. More than 5,500 fire personnel were battling the blaze that covered 228 square miles (590 square kilometers) and was about 50 percent contained, officials said.
“It’s going to work out well, but right now we want to take care of the people that are so badly hurt,” President Trump said from what remained of the Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park. He noted “there are areas you cannnot even get to them yet” and the sheer number of people unaccounted for.
“I think people have to see this really to understand it,” President Trump said.
Several burned-out cars were nearby. Trees were burned, leaves gone. Homes were totally gone; some foundations and twisted steel remained, as did a chimney. The fire was reported to have moved through the area at 80 mph.
The President later toured an operation centers, met with response commanders and praised the work of firefighters, law enforcement and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“We have never seen anything like this in California,” President Trump said.
President Trump took a helicopter tour en route to Chico before he toured Paradise. A full cover of haze and the smell of smoke greeted the president upon his arrival at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento.
President Trump traveled South to visit with victims of a recent country music bar shooting. A gunman killed a dozen people at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, north of Los Angeles, on 7 November.
President Trump’s 1st reaction to the fires came in a Tweet last week: “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.”
Nature and humans share blame for the wildfires, but forest management did not play a major role fire scientists say. Nature provides the dangerous winds that have whipped the fires, and human-caused climate change over the long haul is killing and drying the shrubs and trees that provide the fuel.
President Trump in his remarks just before departing Saturday outlined what he planned to discuss with Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, both Democrats: “We will be talking about forest management. … The one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing and there’s no question about it. It should have been done many years ago, but I think everybody’s on the right side.”
President Trump expressed words of encouragement to 1st responders and those of sympathy for hit victims.
When he was asked whether climate change played a role in the number of serious fires, President Trump said: “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.” He added that he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire. “This should have been all raked out.”
Governor Brown and Mr. Newsom said Friday they welcomed the President’s visit, and “now is a time to pull together for the people of California.”