President Trump on Friday told Fox News host Chris Wallace that he believes wildfires in California could be eradicated if the state had raked all 33 million acres of forest.
A day before he was expected to travel to the state to see the damage himself, the president told Wallace he had seen the firemen on his television raking under trees and bushes near the flames and said that had the forests and grasslands been raked out earlier, there would be no fires burning.
“Nobody’s ever seen what’s going on over there,” he said about the record-breaking wildfires. “Burned beyond recognition, they can’t even see the bodies, it’s incredible,” he said about the growing death toll across the state.
“I was watching the firemen the other day and they were raking areas, they were raking areas where the fire was right over there and they’re raking trees, little trees like this, not trees, little bushes, that you could see are totally dry, weeds,” Trump said. “And they’re raking them, they are on fire. That should have been all raked out and cleaned out. You wouldn’t have the fires.”
As of Friday, the Camp Fire, which has burned 142,000 acres north of Sacramento, has left 63 people dead, destroyed about 9,700 homes and has left 631 people missing. It is now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history. By early Friday, it was 45% contained.
The Woolsey fire, burning near Malibu, has scorched about 98,000 acres. Fire officials have said the dry conditions accompanied by strong winds have contributed to how quickly and aggressively the fires were burning.
A week after two major wildfires sparked at both ends of California, the death toll has increased to 66 statewide, fire officials said.
When Wallace asked Trump what he thought about the argument that climate change may have contributed to the fires Trump said, “Maybe it contributes a little bit, the big problem we have is management”
Trump quickly returned to his forest cleaning argument.
“When I was in a certain state, I won’t say which. The governor said, ‘You know we’ve tested it. We clean out areas and we actually set the fire just to see, we lose almost nothing. We can put it out right away. And then we leave areas unmaintained.’ He said, ‘We’ll lose a hundred thousand acres before you even know it.'”
“You need forest management, it has to be, I’m not saying that in a negative way a pos-, I’m just saying the facts, and I’ve really learned a lot,” Trump said.
Trump blames forest poor management on the California fires, says if forest areas had been raked out, "you wouldn't have the fires." (via Fox) pic.twitter.com/cbdfiRlbJ7
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 16, 2018