Trump cites ‘to­tal dev­as­ta­tion’ in Par­adise, pushes plan to thin forests

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ALEXEI KOSEFF AND DALE KASLER

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.

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