President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit California on Monday to meet with fire and emergency officials

By Maria Pasquini
September 12, 2020 05:00 PM
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Wildfires ravage California
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As the west coast continues to grapple with dozens of devastating wildfires, which have claimed the lives of at least 26 and burned through 4.7 million acres, the White House announced President Donald Trump will travel to California.

Trump is scheduled to meet with local and federal fire and emergency officials on Monday, the White House said.

The news came hours after the president tweeted his thanks to the tens of thousands of firefighters and first responders “who are battling wildfires across California, Oregon and Washington.”

“We are with them all the way!” Trump wrote.

Despite his message of support, Trump has not spoken about the wildfires much in recent weeks, according to CNN, which pointed out that prior to his latest comments, he had last addressed the fires on Aug. 23 when he offered his sympathy to those who had lost their homes, or loved ones, due to the “horrific” blazes.

The president previously criticized California in 2018 when a trio of devastating fires burned across the state. At the time, Trump threatened to cut off federal funding if the state did not remedy what he called the “gross mismanagement of the forests.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has butted heads with Trump in the past, told reporters on Friday that he had a productive phone call with the president, according to Fox LA.

As of Saturday, at least 26 people have been killed across the west coast, while hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes.

A total of 28 fires are currently burning in California, with 13 new blazes erupting on Friday, according to Cal Fire, which noted that “over 16,000 firefighters continue working to gain containment.”

“While weather conditions have improved compared to last weekend, warm and dry conditions persist through much of the state,” Cal Fire continued, explaining that the change could lead to “ the return of critical fire weather next week.”

This year, over 3.2 million acres have burned in the state — an amount that is larger than Connecticut, Cal Fire said in its latest report. Since August 15, there have been 19 fatalities in the state and over 4,000 structures have been destroyed.

Wildfires in California
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Firefighters work to contain California blaze
Ringo H W Chiu/AP/Shutterstock

Addressing the monumental devastation during a Friday press conference, Gov. Newsom warned that the state is “in the midst of a climate emergency.”

“The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes,” he said. “It’s not even debatable.”

“We are experiencing weather conditions the likes of which we’ve never experienced in our lifetime. We’re experiencing what so many people predicted decades and decades ago, but all of that now is reality,” he added.

Although Trump has a checkered past when it comes to climate change, Democratic presidential Joe Biden has called global warming the greatest “challenge facing our country and our world.”

"The science is clear, and deadly signs like these are unmistakable -- climate change poses an imminent, existential threat to our way of life," he wrote in a statement released on Saturday, while also sending his thoughts to the millions of Americans affected by the blazes.

“Left unchecked, wildfires and other extreme weather disasters will only continue to grow in frequency and intensity, endangering the lives of tens of millions of Americans, ravaging our lands and waterways, rendering the air unbreathable, and laying waste to our economic security,” he continued. “Jill and I urge everyone in the path of the wildfires to stay safe and heed the warnings of local officials as our courageous firefighters and first responders work to put an end to the destruction.”

RELATED VIDEO: Wildfires Rage Up the West Coast

In Oregon, at least six people have died in the 37 uncontrollable blazes, which have burned over 1 million acres according to the Washington Post. Over 10 percent of the state’s population is estimated to be under evacuation orders as of Saturday.

Officials say at least eight of the state’s wildfires are expected to burn “until the winter’s rains fall” and that the state is preparing for a “mass fatality” incident,” according to CNN.

“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state,” Gov. Kate Brown wrote on Twitter this week. “Over the last 10 years, an average of 500,000 acres burn in an entire year. We’ve seen nearly double that in 3 days.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, over 600,000 acres have been scorched and one death has been reported, according to The Seattle Times. Evacuations for over a thousand people have been issued so far, according to Gov. Jay Inslee.

This has already been the second-worst fire season in state history. It happened in five days.” Inslee said on Friday

"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires and we cannot and we will not surrender our state," he added during a Friday press conference.

In addition to the blazes, air quality warnings are being issued throughout much of California, Oregon and Washington, CNN reported.

"As the smoke lingers here, our air quality is only going to get worse," NWS forecaster Brian Garcia said of the air quality in San Francisco. "I’ve worked in California for almost 11 years and it’s not about how bad it is. It’s about the duration of this."

"If you remember 2018, we had smoke from the Camp Fire. That air quality was horrible. It was worse than industrial cities in China. But that lasted only a day or two. Then we had wind come in from the east and blow it out. We have no wind right now," Garcia added.

To help communities facing destructive wildfires in the Western U.S., consider donating to the following organizations:

• The American Red Cross allows donors to direct funds to support people impacted by the fires.

• GlobalGiving’s Wildfire Relief offers emergency funding to local efforts providing essentials to wildfire victims in need.

• GoFundMe’s California Wildfire Relief Fund aims to “support a range of needs” by issuing “grants to individuals, organizations and communities that have either been impacted themselves or are dedicated to helping."

• The California Fire Foundation “provides emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters, firefighters and the communities they protect."