Scorched earth in California
25 DEAD, 250,000 FLEE GROWING DISASTER
President Trump threatened to withhold federal funds from California on Saturday as catastrophic wildfires claimed 11 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and scorched hundreds of square miles of land.
More than a quarter of a million people were forced from their homes across the Golden State as the Camp Fire in the north and two other major fires in Southern California burned over the weekend.
Trump took to Twitter to blame "gross mismanagement of the forest" for the devastation.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California,” he wrote, adding that “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!”
It took another 14 hours — until 5:19 p.m. Eastern Time — for the President to mention the 11 lives reported lost in the disaster. He also spoke of “52,000 who have evacuated” — a figure far lower than the 250,000 homes under evacuation orders.
Trump made no mention Saturday of the Northern California town of Paradise, which was wiped off the map by the ongoing blazes. The wind-whipped flames started Thursday and incinerated most of the 27,000person town so quickly there was little firefighters could do.
State officials and celebrities alike were stunned by the President's Twitter response to the tragedy.
State officials and celebrities alike were stunned by the President's response to the latest tragedy.
“I don't expect anything better from Trump, but this threat, issued as people are literally fleeing for their lives, cannot go unanswered,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted in response. “For those of you in the path of the fires or who have lost loved ones or your
homes, we will be there for you. Even if our President is not.”
The President made no mention of the casualties, or the Northern California town of Paradise that was wiped off the map by the ongoing blazes. The windwhipped flames started Thursday and incinerated most of the 27,000-person town so quickly there was little firefighters could do.
Officials found two people dead Saturday on a sparsely populated stretch of Mulholland Highway in Malibu, bringing the total number of victims to 11.
Officials warned the devastation could spread.
“Winds are expected to pick up again this evening into tomorrow contributing to another round of #CriticalFireWeather,” tweeted LAPD Chief Michel Moore. “Be ready for the potential of continued and new evacuation orders. If you are asked to leave. Leave.”
Firefighters have managed to save thousands of homes despite working in "extreme, tough fire conditions that they said they have never seen in their life," Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
The flames licked into famously ritzy coastal spots like Malibu, where Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian West, Guillermo del Toro and Martin Sheen were among those forced from their homes.
Osby said losses to homes were "significant" but did not say how many buildings had burned. Officials said earlier that 150 homes had been destroyed.
Smoke and embers also encased the town of Thousand Oaks, where a gunman killed a dozen people at a local bar days earlier, as one of the fires crept closer.
“We've had a lot of tragedy in our community,” said Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, whose district includes Thousand Oaks. "We don't want any more. We do not want any more lives lost."
Before his threat to slash money for fighting the fires, Trump issued an emergency declaration for federal funds for three counties.
A leading California fire official called Trump's comments "a shameful attack on California."
"The President's assertion that California's forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong," California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice said in a statement. “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," he continued in the statement.
Pop star Katy Perry called the commander-in-chief's comments “heartless.” With News Wire Services
Home in Malibu (above) is reduced to ash and rubble after fire tore through. The same fire filled the sky (left) with smoke. Below, President Trump said California has only itself to blame for the devastation.