VIDEO: Trump Tours Paradise Area, Calls Wildfire A ‘Really Bad One’; Death Toll at 71, 1000+ Missing

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From the ashes of a mobile home and RV park, President Donald Trump said Saturday he came to the heart of California’s killer wildfire to fully grasp the scale of the desolation wrought on the landscape.

“We’re 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, standing amid the crumpled foundations of homes and twisted steel of melted cars.

“I think everybody’s seen the light and I don’t think we’ll have this again to this extent,” Trump said in Paradise, the town largely destroyed by a wildfire ignited Nov. 8 that he called “this monster.”

With that bold and perhaps unlikely prediction, Trump pledged that improved forest management practices will diminish future risks. The declaration evoked his initial tweeted reaction to the fire, the worst in the state’s history, in which he seemed to blame local officials and threatened to take away federal funding.

When asked if seeing the historic devastation, which stretched for miles and left neighborhoods destroyed and fields scorched, altered his opinion on climate change, Trump answered, “No.”

The president has long voiced skepticism about man’s impact on the climate and has been reluctant to assign blame to a warming earth for the increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters.

At least 71 people 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.

For Trump, it was a day to comfort a state grieving from twin tragedies, wildfires in both Northern and Southern California as well as a mass shooting at a popular college bar north of Los Angeles.

Wearing a camouflage “USA” hat, Trump gazed solemnly at the devastation in Paradise.

Several burned-out buses and cars were nearby. Trees were burned, their branches bare and twisted. Homes were totally gone; some foundations remained, as did a chimney and, in front of one house, a Mickey Mouse lawn ornament. The fire was reported to have moved through the area at 80 mph.

“It’s going to work out well, but right now we want to take of the people that are so badly hurt,” Trump said visiting what remained of the Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park. He noted “there are areas you can’t even get to them yet” and the sheer number of people unaccounted for.

“I think people have to see this really to understand it,” Trump said.

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.

“We’ve never seen anything like this in California,” he said. “It’s total devastation.”

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.

“They’re out there fighting and they’re fighting like hell,” Trump said of the first responders.

He pledged that Washington would do its part by coming to the Golden State’s aid and urged the House’s Republican leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, a Trump ally and frequent White House visitor, to “come to the office” to help secure the needed funding.

Trump, who left Washington early Saturday and didn’t expect to return to the White House until well past midnight, planned to travel several hundred miles 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 on Nov. 7 before committing suicide.

Trump long has struggled to convey empathy to victims of national disasters and tragedies. His first reaction to the fires came in a tweet last week that drew criticism as unnecessarily critical and tone-deaf given the devastation: “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.”

After the negative reaction to his response, Trump shifted gears, expressing words of encouragement to first responders and those of sympathy for hit victims.

Nature and humans share blame for the wildfires, but fire scientists are divided as to whether forest management played a major role. Nature provides the dangerous winds that have whipped the fires, the state has been in a drought and human-caused climate change over the long haul is killing and drying the shrubs and trees that provide the fuel.

When Trump was asked during an interview set to air on “Fox News Sunday” whether climate change played a role in the number of serious fires, he said “maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”

Before departing Saturday, Trump outlined what he planned to discuss with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov-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.”

In Northern California, Trump’s skepticism about the impact of climate change on the wildfires was on display when he, Brown and Newsom spoke to reporters. Asked if he thought climate change played a role in the fires, Brown responded: “Yes. Yes. And we’ll let science determine this over a longer period of time.”

A reporter asked if climate change was discussed with the president, but Trump jumped in to say, “We didn’t discuss it.”

A reporter then said, “Well, you obviously disagree on this issue.” Trump answered, in part: “Maybe not as different as people think. Is it happening? Things are changing. And I think most importantly we’re doing things about. We’re gonna make it better. We’re going to make it a lot better. And it’s gonna happen as quickly as it can possibly happen.”

Brown and Newsom said they welcomed the president’s visit, with the governor suggesting they set aside political differences since it “now is a time to pull together for the people of California.”

Brown, a fierce advocate of addressing climate change, pointed to several causes and they need to deal with them.

“If you really look at the facts, from a really open point of view, there are a lot of elements to be considered,” Brown said. “The president came, he saw and I’m looking forward over the next months and beyond to really understand this threat of fire, the whole matter of drought and all the rest of it. It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of things and I think that if we just open our minds and look at things we’ll get more stuff done.”

(AP)


11 COMMENTS

  1. Why didn’t he apologize for his original dumb and clueless comments blaming forest management and threatening to cut off funds to California which were widely condemned by firefighters and experts in tge field. What a small pathetic man.

  2. How could a news article write, as if it’s fact,

    “Nature and humans share blame for the wildfires, but fire scientists are divided as to whether forest management played a major role. Nature provides the dangerous winds that have whipped the fires, the state has been in a drought and human-caused climate change over the long haul is killing and drying the shrubs and trees that provide the fuel.”?

    ” human-caused climate change ”
    Really?
    Any proof at all?

    The only facts we have are the ones concerning California’s deranged water policies.

  3. “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.” NFS had its budget gutted by the Trump administration. There is little they can do with regards to forest management based on the funds allotted. I wish the heck this guy pretended to know what his administration is responsible for.

  4. Mariana,
    Viva el Presidente Trump…!
    Your monologue should be directed at Gov. Brown , the climate change buffoon ….
    So how’s San Fran doing with homeless , needles, latrines on sidewalks, garbage, crime?
    Or , why are Californians running away in droves?
    Oh, Trump isn’t ridiculed worldwide at all… He’s feared, because he’s finally calling out their economic con game, and suicidal immigration policy…
    USA is respected again…
    You Jewish??

  5. ….. sorry, my MAGA post was to Amil who wrote about NFS… But it’s all the same….
    I suggest you folks shy away from “facts ” when attacking Trump, which are easier to challenge, and stick with words you and the other TDS sufferers use….
    Stupid, buffoon, pathetic, blah, blah,
    liar, racist, blah , without evidence… because this stuff is harder to clean up…. It’s like trying to disprove a negative…. like trying to air out an odorous room… Takes a good 24 hours.

  6. I do hope the President’s own NFS will be educating him about the terrain and the types of lands that are burning. Chaparral fires are quite different than boreal or temperate forests. No amount of raking will cut the risk of a fire, especially during a prolonged drought. This may be a good time for the administration to replace the funding cut from the NFS budgets as well. And while I’m at it he should consider providing additional funds for Conservation Camp fire administration so their firefighters can make more than $1.45 a day. (Professional wild fire fighters only make about $15 per hour.) I’ve lived a large part of my life in fire country, there are no simple solutions.

  7. Zion Gate, the NFS budget is online. It is complex because it is a sub agency of the USDA, it’s funding is also tied to the Dept. of Interior budgets. After a cut of $4.7 million the USDA decided to offset that cut via the dept of Interior. (FYI the dept of Interior). This will negatively impact fire fighting on public lands that the Dept. of Interior is responsible for.

    Call your regional NFS office and see if they have any community meetings available explaining the budget allocations. As I said, I live in fire country, these meetings are vital for our public to stay informed.

    I do have a question that you may not be able to answer. Why are the posters here so rude? So many of the comments read like they were written by angry children. I tend to write from my adult, and my posts aren’t intended to be persuasive. I do attempt to use them to inform. As to casting aspersions at any poster on any site, really isn’t my style. I know none of you personally, it would be unfair of me to judge any of you based on the attitudes expressed here.

    Off to baking. Have a good day and a pleasant tomorrow.