Fire Officials Denounce Trump's Tweets Threatening to Cut Funding for California Wildfires
Donald Trump had a lot to say about California’s forest management in the wake of the states' deadly wildfires — and many officials are saying the president got it completely wrong
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “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!”
The following day he added, “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!”
Speaking out against the threat, California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice said that the president had gotten it “dangerously wrong.”
“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong,” he wrote. “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.”
He went on to add that “nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another one-third [are] under private control.”
Pointing out that the state of California should hardly be blamed when the majority of forests are not under their control, he added, “it is is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.”
Making a similar point, California Rep. Ted Lieu explained that California only owns 2 percent of land in the state, and that Trump was responsible for cutting forest management funding in the federal budget, according to Patch.com
U.C. Merced Climate and Wildfire scientist LeRoy Westerling also told the San Francisco Chronicle that it was “ridiculous” for Trump to chalk the wildfires up to forest management.
The scientist went on to explain on Twitter that “warming and more variable precipitation from human-caused climate change” are partly behind the “greatly increasing fire risks.”
The Pasadena Fire Association also corrected the president, writing that the fires “have NOTHING to do with forest management.”
“The fires in So. Cal are urban interface fires,” the association tweeted. “Come to SoCal and learn the facts & help the victims.”
As for what would happen should the president actually make good on his threats, as the Washington Post pointed out, Trump has a history of making bold statements and then not following up on them — especially when it comes to California.
For instance, in April, Trump threatened to withhold federal funding for California’s National Guard deployment, unless Gov. Jerry Brown instructed the troops to enforce border security. Brown had previously declared that the troops would “not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”
Last year Trump also threatened to defund California if it became a sanctuary state, which it did in January.
Trump has yet to pull any federal funding, and the Post argues that his eagerness to attack the state likely relates to the fact that Brown, a Democrat, has long stood in the way of the president’s policies.
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The president also has a long history of making unverified claims about California’s forest management.
“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!” he tweeted in August, as 16 fires blazed throughout the state.
At the time, Deputy Cal Fire Chief Scott McLean refuted Trump’s claim, issuing a statement saying that there was “plenty of water to fight these fires.”
During an Oct. 17 Cabinet meeting, Trump also claimed that “California’s incompetence” was costing the U.S. “hundreds of billions of dollars,” according to ABC News. The outlet noted that despite Trump’s claim, Cal Fire’s operating budget for 2018-19 is only $2.3 billion.
As the president faced criticism over his tweets from celebrities, many of whom evacuated their homes due to the wildfires, some conservative politicians also condemned Trump’s threat to withhold federal funding.
On Sunday, Republican Sens. Cory Gardner and Lindsey Graham went on Meet the Press to voice their opinions, according to The Hill.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to threaten funding,” said Gardner. “Funding will be available. It always is available to our people wherever they are, whatever disaster they are facing.”
The senator added that “fixing the wildfire funding issue” was something politicians on both sides of the aisle could get behind.
“One of the great great bipartisan accomplishments of this past Congress was actually in the area of forest fires and finding a solution for funding,” he said.
Graham also pushed back against Trump’s comments, saying, “Now’s not the time to talk about cutting off funding. We’re going to help our friends in California. With all due respect, they need help.”