Trump Threatens to Withhold Funds for California Wildfires; Professional Firefighters President Calls Threat ‘Ill-Informed’
President Trump blamed the latest California wildfires on “gross mismanagement of the forests,” in a tweet on Saturday.
“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,” the president wrote.
Trump threatened to withhold federal funds from California, adding, “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
The comments were Trump’s first about massive wildfires, including a blaze that incinerated most of the Northern California town of Paradise and killed at least nine people, along with the destructive fires in Southern California.
California congressman Ted Lieu, a frequent Trump critic, responded to the president on Twitter, saying, “Oh, and guess who owns much of the forest land in CA? Your federal agencies. CA only owns 2%. Guess who cut funding to forest management in the budget? YOU DID.”
The president is currently in Paris commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, and meeting with European leaders on foreign policy.
This is not the first time Trump has lashed out regarding California wildfires. In August, he said the fires are worsened by “bad environmental laws.”
“California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!” Trump tweeted.
California Professional Firefighters President Brian K. Rice issued the following response to the president’s threat.
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.
At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires.
At this moment, thousands of our brother and sister firefighters are putting their lives on the line to protect the lives and property of thousands. Some of them are doing so even as their own homes lay in ruins. In my view, this shameful attack on California is an attack on all our courageous men and women on the front lines.
The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong. Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.
Natural disasters are not “red” or “blue” – they destroy regardless of party. Right now, families are in mourning, thousands have lost homes, and a quarter-million Americans have been forced to flee. At this desperate time, we would encourage the president to offer support in word and deed, instead of recrimination and blame.