Donald Trump visited California on Saturday to tour areas devastated by wildfires that burned out of control across the state and once again blamed forest management for the fires spreading so quickly. The president went to a neighborhood in Paradise, California (which he repeatedly referred to as “Pleasure“), as well as parts of Malibu.
As the fires burned last week, Trump tweeted his initial response, blaming forest management: “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!”
This comment drew backlash from many, including Brian K. Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, who told CNN: “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.”
But Trump reiterated his ill-conceived comments in California on Saturday. “We will be talking about forest management,” he said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It should have been a lot different situation.” He also mentioned Finland, saying that they “spend a lot of time on raking” leaves and “cleaning and doing things” to prevent forest fires.
While Trump was touring damaged areas, The Guardian interviewed evacuees in a Walmart parking lot in Chico, California. One man, Kirk Ellsworth, said his adult children’s homes were destroyed by the flames. Ellsworth said he had been a Trump supporter, but the president’s reaction to the fires made him reconsider. “My kids lost everything. I voted for him — and now? He can kiss my red ass. What he said was ridiculous. It hurts my heart. A lot of us voted for him and he talks down to us?”
“We are not the ones to blame. We are not in charge of managing the forest,” another evacuee, Ryan Belcher, told The Guardian, adding, “I hope he sees how this community has come together… People are still here helping us. It’s an amazing thing and I hope he sees that.”
Michael Reasons, who lived in Paradise, told the Chico Enterprise-Record that he was not impressed with Trump’s visit either. “For me, it doesn’t make a bit of difference,” he said. “I know what kind of person he really is.”