Trump cites ‘total devastation’ in Paradise, pushes plan to thin forests
President Donald Trump toured the damage wrought by California’s deadliest wildfire Saturday, visiting the ruins of a mobile home park and pressing his argument that the state’s forests must be managed more aggressively to prevent future disasters.
With the death toll from the Camp Fire at 71 and rising, Trump met with Paradise Mayor Jody Jones and toured the charred wreckage of the Skyway
Villa Mobile Home and RV Park. They passed a destroyed home where someone had hung an American flag, and picked their way past a downed streetlamp and other debris.
Bits of ash floated in the air, although neither the president nor anyone in his entourage wore masks. Trump later was briefed on details of the fire by Cal Fire officials at the agency’s incident command post in nearby Chico.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Trump said. “It looks like total devastation.”
He was accompanied by Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, two Democrats who’ve been outspoken adversaries of the Republican president. The two sides tried to downplay their differences, but some tensions were clear as the visit progressed.
Administrator Brock Long of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, making his second visit to the area in four days, told Trump it was “prob-
ably the worst disaster that I’ve seen in my career.” Long announced that 12,000 people have registered with FEMA for financial aid, and that $3 million has been handed out already.
Also in tow were two Republican congressmen: Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the region, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. Trump spent about three hours in the area, including the time traveling by helicopter between Chico and Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, where Air Force One landed, before continuing on to Southern California.
At each stop, Trump reiterated his call for thinning the state’s forests in an effort to prevent future disasters.
“We have to do management, maintenance,” Trump said, wearing tan slacks, a dark windbreaker and a camouflage-style “USA” ball cap. “We’ll also be working with environmental groups. I think everybody’s seen the light.”
He cited the “forest nation” of Finland, which Trump said spends “a lot of time raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”
Trump’s tour Saturday marked his second visit to California in the nearly two years of his presidency. He previously traveled to San Diego in March to review border wall prototypes.
The Paradise visit came nearly a week after Trump infuriated California leaders and firefighters by blaming them for the Camp Fire damage, saying the state has let its forest become overgrown.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 10. “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!”
Brown, Newsom and others immediately blasted those comments. The Camp Fire started in the vicinity of the Plumas National Forest, and policy experts noted that the federal government manages 60 percent of California’s forested land.
Trump later approved an emergency declaration for the state and praised firefighters and first responders for their “incredible courage.” On Saturday, he and Brown attempted to downplay their differences.
“We’re all going to work together and we’ll do a real job,” Trump said.
Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236; @akoseff.