‘Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change — and those that deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedy,’ the governor says.
“Things like this will be part of our future … things like this, and worse,’’ warned Brown at a Sunday press conference, flanked by fire and emergency officials delivering an update on three major fires still raging through the state which have killed 25 to date. “That’s why it’s so important to take steps to help communities, to do prevention and adaptation.”
Brown’s remarks came after a tweet by Trump on Saturday in which the president argued: “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. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Asked to respond to the President’s tweet Sunday, Brown called California’s recent battles with massive wildfires “the new abnormal.” He added: “Scientists and the engineers and the firefighters all tell us forest management is one element’’ to control them, but warned governments must address “a whole range of actions” to address a problem he said may cost “billions” of dollars to tackle.
“Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change — and those that deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedy,’’ Brown said. “The chickens are coming home to roost. This is real here.” He advised that governments and officials need to be “pulling together in these tragic circumstances and thinking wisely,’’ while being “collaborative.’’
Brown’s comments came at the site of a state operations center coordinating the response to three major fires in Butte County, as well as Ventura and Los Angeles counties, which have destroyed over 6,700 structures and forced the evacuation nearly 150,000 residents, with 25 dead and 100 still missing. More than 3,000 firefighters from seven states were battling the blazes whipped up by winds as high as 40 mph in some regions Sunday, officials said.
Trump’s tweet Saturday — widely criticized by state officials — underscored the president’s historically caustic relationship with solidly blue California and its Democratic leaders on issues ranging from climate change to water policy and immigration. In August, Trump criticized California wildfire management and threatened to cut off federal aid, inaccurately suggesting that the state was allowing millions of gallons of water to flow to the sea rather than using the water for fighting fires.
The president, who polls show is historically unpopular in the state, has called Brown “Moonbeam,’’ slamming the governor’s position to limit the role of National Guard troops along the border with Mexico. His latest tweets also came during the same week Republicans suffered big losses in the midterm elections, which could end up with the state’s GOP caucus in the House withering to eight out of 53 members when the full vote count is finished. During the election cycle, the president also jabbed at Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, calling him a “clown” as he endorsed Newsom’s unsuccessful Republican rival, John Cox, for governor.
Trump did later appear to soften his message, acknowledging the loss of lives and the round-the-clock work of first responders, saying, “God bless them.” But that did not appear to mollify state officials, who pushed back angrily against his attempts to blame mismanagement for the firestorms.
Brown, in a statement issued Sunday, said: “We have the best firefighters and first responders in the country working in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. We’re putting everything we’ve got into the fight against these fires and this request ensures communities on the front lines get additional federal aid.’’
“To those who have lost friends and family members, homes and businesses, know that the entire state is with you,’’ he said. “As Californians, we are strong and resilient, and together we will recover.”
Trump’s critical comments over the weekend sparked a blistering response from Brian Rice, head of the 30,000-member California Professional Firefighters organization, who called the president’s attack “ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to victims and to our firefighters on the front lines.”
Rice directly refuted Trump’s assertion of mismanagement as “dangerously wrong,’’ noting in a statement that “nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another one-third under private control.’’ He charged that “it is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.”
Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrup, reacting to Trump in a statement, said, “Our focus is on the Californians impacted by these fires and the first responders and firefighters working around the clock to save lives and property — not on the president’s inane, uninformed tweets.”
Newsom, the governor-elect, also responded harshly, tweeting: “Lives have been lost. Entire towns have been burned to the ground. Cars abandoned on the side of the road. People are being forced to flee their homes. This is not a time for partisanship. This is a time for coordinating relief and response and lifting those in need up.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also angrily tweeted to Trump: “What is wrong with you? Disaster victims deserve help & sympathy. 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.”
And Rep. Adam Schiff, another California Democrat, slammed Trump’s response on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, saying: “People are losing their lives, losing loved ones, losing their homes. … [F]or the president, at a time when people are facing utter disaster, to be making a statement like this, making a threat like this, this just goes to show how little he understands the job he has.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) echoed the California Democrats’ concerns, telling “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd: “I don’t think it’s appropriate to threaten funding. That’s not going to happen. Funding will be available. It always is available to our people wherever they are, whatever disaster they are facing. I do think, though, this year we came up with a strong bipartisan success in fixing the wildfire funding issue that had kind of paralyzed our ability to go out and fight fires and suppress fires and mitigate next year’s forest fires.”
“So one of the great bipartisan accomplishments of this past Congress was actually in the area of forest fires and finding a solution for funding,” Gardner added.
Three fires are blazing through the state. In Northern California’s Butte County, the Camp fire has destroyed more than 6,700 structures and left 23 people dead, making it the state’s most destructive fire. More than 250,000 have been evacuated — and two have died — in the wake of the Woolsey fire, which has raced through Malibu, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks in Southern California, destroying homes and continuing to threatening parts of Simi Valley and West Hills. The Hill fire burned more than 4,000 acres in canyons near Camarillo Springs and Cal State Channel Islands, west of Thousand Oaks.
A state of emergency has been declared in Los Angeles, Ventura and Butte counties because of multiple fires, and late last week California secured direct federal assistance to further support the affected communities, Brown’s office said.
Trump did not visit California after deadly fires in Santa Rosa and Redding over the summer caused billions of dollars in damage — a decision that many Democrats in the state saw as an intentional slight that contrasted dramatically with the president’s visits to red states like Florida and Texas, which have suffered hurricane damage.