Donald Trump claimed this weekend that Finland doesn’t suffer forest fires because its people take the time to rake leaves in the forest, and Finnish people have responded with a resounding, “What?”
On Saturday, the president traveled to areas of California hit hard by forest fires that have destroyed thousands of structures and left at least 70 people dead. During his visit, Trump reiterated his seemingly strange claim that unraked leaves are a major contributor to the forest fires, despite experts saying that global warming is likely the biggest factor.
Trump pointed to Finland as an example, claiming that the country’s people protect against wildfires by keeping the forest floor free of dried and dead leaves.
“You look at other countries where they do it differently, and it’s a whole different story,” Trump claimed (via Buzzfeed News). “I was with the president of Finland, and he said we have a much different—we’re a forest nation, he called it a forest nation.”
“And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things,” Trump said of the Finnish people. “And they don’t have any problem.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said he had no idea what Trump was talking about. As the Associated Press noted, Niinisto told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper that he and Trump spoke briefly about forest management when they were both in France last weekend for Armistice Day events, but said he never mentioned raking leaves in the forest.
As Buzzfeed News noted, others from Finland have taken to social media to express bewilderment at Donald Trump’s comments. None could ever recall trekking into the forest to rake leaves, which normally in nature stay on the ground and eventually decompose, with the nutrients helping fuel growth for the forest.
"I grew up in Finland.
a) it rains all year round.
b) we have a lengthy and cold winter.
c) Finland is a sparsely populated country with just over 5mil ppl, with land size ~3/4 of CA and most of it forests and lakes.
— ☇RiotWomenn☇ (@riotwomennn) November 17, 2018
Others pointed out that it would be physically impossible for the people of Finland to attempt raking leaves in the heavily forested nation.
Finland has ~73% forest coverage = 222,180 square kilometers of forests (world bank study). Our forests are densest in the world, averaging 72,000 trees in sq km. That's 22 billion trees or 4,500 for every Finn (yale university study).
Please send help. Must bring own rakes.
— Aki Heikkinen (@akihheikkinen) November 17, 2018
Others mocked Donald Trump by posting pictures of themselves raking, cleaning, or even vacuuming forests in their native Finland and tagging the president.
Just an ordinary day in the Finnish forest ~ Ihan normipäivä suomalaisessa metsässä #Trump #forest #firesafety #raking #forestry #Finland #Finnish #CaliforniaFire #RakingAmericaGreatAgain #rakingtheforest #Suomi #haravointi #metsäpalot #rakingleaves pic.twitter.com/YOKA3D6C2K
— Pyry Luminen (@pyryluminen) November 18, 2018
Donald Trump’s comparisons between California and Finland have drawn criticism amid his continued insistence that global warming is not real and not a factor in the wildfires spreading across the state. Trump had repeatedly said in the past that he believed global warming was a hoax, and reiterated this weekend that he has not changed his stance amid the destructive fires in California.