The Camp, Rincon, and Woolsey wildfires have engulfed many homes and took dozens of lives in California over the past few days.
In the midst of the devastation, President Donald Trump took to Twitter and sent a tweet criticizing California’s handling of the fires, and he threatened to withhold federal funding in the future if the state does not change the way it approaches wildfire prevention.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
However, the firefighting professionals on the ground in California warned that president Trump is “dangerously wrong” in his assessment of the wildfire situation in the Golden State.
Brian K. Rice, the president of the California Professional Firefighters organization, who represents over 30,000 first responders, called out Trump for his incorrect facts. On Saturday, Rice issued a statement.
“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.”
More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California that have burned over 170,000 acres. Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018
Rice pointed out that in addition to misinformation, the president also attacked the more than 250,000 Californians who fled their homes along with the men and women fighting the fires and saving lives — all for the sake of making a political statement on an issue that is not a “red” or “blue” situation.
Using facts, Rice explained the reason Trump is incorrect in his tweet.
“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong. 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. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.”
In fact, local and state agencies only manage about 3 percent of the forest areas in the state, according to UCANR reports.
Another group of firefighting professionals also spoke out against Trump’s inaccurate claims. Harold Schaitberger, the International Association of Fire Fighters General President, issued a statement condemning the president’s tweet.
“President Donald Trump has chosen to respond with an irresponsible, reckless and insulting tweet criticizing the work being done on the frontline to contain these disasters. While firefighters and civilians are still in harm’s way, the president even suggested cutting off necessary funding to keep Americans safe.”
The fires have burned since Thursday, and thousands of firefighters are risking their lives working tirelessly to put out the flames, as life and property face fiery ruin. Many celebrities have evacuated, and some have even lost their homes. Images on social media show animals in the region also facing risks if they were unable to escape.
Before his tweet against the state handling of forests, Trump also urged citizens to heed evacuation orders. He also offered blessings to those who are fleeing and fighting the infernos.