Donald Trump again blamed Democratic state leaders on the West Coast for forest fires raging across the region for poor forest management, saying they should be ready because dry trees can “just explode.”
Fires have spread up and down the West Coast, from California up through Oregon and Washington state, displacing thousands, and sowing doubt among some residents about whether they will remain in the region long term.
The president criticized state and local officials in the region for not “cutting,” like he said one European leader put it, areas of forest to prevent active fires from spreading. “They don’t do that,” he said Monday as he landed in Sacramento for a briefing on the fires and another event.
“When trees fall down after … 18 months …they become dry” like a “match stick,“ Mr Trump said. “They just explode. They can explode.”
It was unclear if he was just using an expression to make a point, or really thinks the trees detonate when they become very dry.
“They have to do something about it. They have to do cuts in between,” he said of state leaders.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, at that briefing with Mr. Trump, said his state has fires from its northern border with Oregon to its southern one with Mexico. Twenty-four people have died so far, he said.
“No one disputes that,” Mr. Newsom said of Mr. Trump’s claim that Western states have done too little on forest management.
But he said most of the forest land is under the purview of the federal government, not his state.
Seated just to Mr. Trump’s right, he said, “it is self-evident that climate change is real” and the “hots are getting hotter.”
Mr. Trump, who has taken many sides of the climate crisis debate, did not dispute what the California governor said.
But moments later, Mr. Trump said of the crisis: “I’m not sure science knows, actually,” telling local officials, without supporting evidence, he thinks temperatures “will get cooler.”
Officials told the president 1,100 fires have broken out over the last 29 days alone.