California firefighters are clapping back at President Donald Trump for comments he made in a tweet Saturday morning threatening to pull federal funding for California wildfire relief as another devastating round of blazes ravage the state.
In his first comments since California’s most recent fires sparked, Trump once again cited what he called “gross mismanagement” of the state’s forests as the reason for “these massive, deadly and costly” fires. The president had previously made similar statements in October about discontinuing federal financial relief to the fire-beleaguered state, according to a report in The Bee.
Brian Rice, the California Professional Firefighters president, released a statement Saturday afternoon chiding the president for what he called a “shameful attack on California” and for shifting attention from what is really important.
“The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is Ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines,” Rice said in the statement. “At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires.”
Rice also said Trump’s assertion of California’s negligence regarding poor forest management is misguided and sought to remind the president that 60 percent of the state’s forests are under federal management, and he warned the president against making these fires a “red or blue” issue.
“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,” Rice said. “It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.”
The Woolsey Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles counties and the Camp Fire in Butte County have decimated a combined 170,000 acres in as little as two days according to Cal Fire’s incident page, with multiple people dead or missing and thousands of homes destroyed, prompting the International Association of Fire Fighters to issue a statement calling Trump’s tweet “reckless and insulting.”
“The early moments of fires such as these are a critical time, when lives are lost, entire communities are wiped off the map and our members are injured or killed trying to stop these monstrous wildfires,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said in the statement. “To minimize the crucial, life-saving work being done and to make crass suggestions such as cutting off funding during a time of crisis shows a troubling lack of real comprehension about the disaster at hand and the dangerous job our fire fighters do.”
Trump, who is currently in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, sent two additional tweets later in the day Saturday with a more compassionate tone, encouraging people located in fire zones to listen to evacuation orders from state and local officials.
“Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have die,” Trump tweeted. “The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.”