Trump sur­veys the dam­age from wild­fire in Cal­i­for­nia

Pres­i­dent tours area af­ter blaze in N. Calif. killed 76

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Ben Pos­ton, An­gel Jen­nings, Joseph Serna and Javier Pan­zar Los An­ge­les Times

PAR­ADISE, Calif. — View­ing the de­struc­tion of a wild­fire that has killed more than 76 peo­ple, with 1,276 oth­ers still un­ac­counted for, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vowed Satur­day to help Cal­i­for­nia re­cover from the dev­as­ta­tion and work to pre­vent fu­ture cat­a­strophic blazes.

Trump toured the rub­ble of Par­adise, where more than 10,000 struc­tures were lost, with Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin New­som.

Trump said he was stunned by the level of de­struc­tion.

“Hope­fully, this will be the last of th­ese, be­cause it was a re­ally, re­ally bad one,” the pres­i­dent said. “Peo­ple have to see this to re­ally un­der­stand it.”

Hours later and hun­dreds of miles to the south, Trump found sim­i­lar signs of dev­as­ta­tion in the sea­side con­clave of Mal­ibu, one of the ar­eas of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia rav­aged by wild­fires. Palm trees stood scorched and some homes were burned to the ground on a bluff over­look­ing the Pa­cific Ocean.

Al­though Trump and Brown have strong po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, they struck a chord of unity. Trump praised the state’s first re­spon­ders and said he had pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions with Brown and New­som.

The pres­i­dent also avoided his crit­i­cism of Cal­i­for­nia’s fire and for­est man­age­ment that sparked con­tro­versy last week­end, even sug­gest­ing there was com­mon ground on how to pro­ceed.

“We do have to do man­age­ment, main­te­nance. We’ll be work­ing also with en­vi­ron­men­tal groups,” Trump said.

Asked in Par­adise about whether his views on cli­mate change had shifted, the pres­i­dent said no: “I have a strong opin­ion; I want great cli­mate.”

Brown said the road ahead will be chal­leng­ing. “It’s a big mas­sive cleanup af­ter a mas­sive tragedy,“he said. “Some­how we will pull through it to­gether.”

The pres­i­dent ar­rived in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia on Satur­day af­ter­noon for a sim­i­lar tour of dev­as­tated ar­eas in and around Mal­ibu and Thou­sand Oaks. The Camp fire in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and the Woolsey Fire in the south com­bined have burned more than 250,000 acres and de­stroyed more than 10,000 struc­tures.

Trump was roundly crit­i­cized last week for er­ro­neously blam­ing the fires on poor for­est man­age­ment and threat­en­ing to cut off fund­ing to Cal­i­for­nia.

“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,” he tweeted then.

But in re­cent days, the pres­i­dent has of­fered more con­cil­ia­tory com­ments, say­ing Tues­day, “We mourn for the lives lost and we pray for the vic­tims of the Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires.”

Trump con­tin­ued to talk about for­est man­age­ment while in Cal­i­for­nia on Satur­day. “We’ve got to take care of the floors, you know the floors of the for­est. It’s very im­por­tant,” he said.

He also al­luded to Fin­land, say­ing that coun­try fo­cuses “on rak­ing and clean­ing. They don’t have any prob­lem.”

The ref­er­ence to Fin­land puz­zled some, be­cause its ecosys­tem is so dif­fer­ent that that of Cal­i­for­nia.

On Satur­day af­ter­noon, a long line formed out­side a Los An­ge­les County court­house in Mal­ibu that was con­verted into a Woolsey Fire dis­as­ter cen­ter be­fore the doors were set to open at 1 p.m. Dozens of fed­eral, state and lo­cal agen­cies set up ta­bles in­side to help res­i­dents get help.

Steven Cor­drey, 52, stood nearby. Cor­drey lost his house in the 1994 Mal­ibu fires but said this time was worse be­cause he has not been able to get any in­for­ma­tion about his house.

“It’s 2018!” he said, his voice shak­ing with emo­tion. “This is a trav­esty. We have not been al­lowed in (his neigh­bor­hood) for nine days. We’re treated like crim­i­nals when I go to check­points to ask.”

In Butte County, the re­mains of five more peo­ple were found Satur­day, and the num­ber of peo­ple un­ac­counted for jumped from 631 to 1,276 as au­thor­i­ties con­tin­ued to comb through 911 calls, emails and other re­ports of miss­ing peo­ple.

Butte County Sher­iff Kory Honea said, how­ever, that the list of the miss­ing is dy­namic and may in­clude peo­ple who were counted twice, whose names were mis­spelled or who may not know they were re­ported miss­ing.

The Camp Fire, al­ready the state’s worst fire on record, has burned 146,000 acres and de­stroyed 12,263 struc­tures, of­fi­cials said, adding that it could take weeks to com­plete the search for vic­tims and iden­tify them. Thou­sands of res­i­dents are with­out homes and liv­ing in shel­ters and tent cities.

The Woolsey Fire in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia has burned more than 500 struc­tures and killed three peo­ple.

For Trump, it was a day to com­fort a state griev­ing from twin tragedies, wild­fires in North­ern and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia as well as a mass shoot­ing Nov. 7 at a pop­u­lar col­lege bar north of Los An­ge­les.

Trump said he would meet with peo­ple im­pacted by the shoot­ing at the Bor­der­line Bar & Grill in Thou­sand Oaks be­fore re­turn­ing to Washington.

SAUL LOEB/GETTY-AFP

SAUL LOEB/GETTY-AFP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sur­veys dam­age from the Camp Fire on Satur­day while flanked by, from far left, Cal­i­for­nia’s Gov.-elect Gavin New­som and FEMA’s Brock Long and, on the right, Par­adise Mayor Jody Jones and Gov. Jerry Brown.

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