The Trump administration has rejected California’s request for disaster relief funds to tackle wildfires and to help residents displaced by a string of fires that have impacted the state.
“The request for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration for early September fires has been denied by the federal administration,” said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the governor’s office of emergency services.
The state announced plans to appeal the decision; Ferguson said there is a “strong case that California’s request meets the federal requirements for approval.”
Damage assessments “determined that the early September fires were not of such severity and magnitude to exceed the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and other responding federal agencies,” according to Lizzie Litzow, a press secretary for FEMA.
President Donald Trump visited California several weeks ago and blamed the blazes on “poor forest management.” He denied that climate change is intensifying these fires.
“When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick,” Trump said at the time. “And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires.” He added that he doesn’t think “science knows” what is behind the fires.
Shortly afterward, he suggested that “European forest cities” do a better job of handling climate change than the state of California.
“You have forests all over the world. You don’t have fires like you do in California,” Trump told the hosts of “Fox and Friends.” “In Europe they have forest cities. You look at countries, Austria, you look at so many countries, they live in the forest, they’re considered forest cities, so many of them. And they don’t have fires like this and they have more explosive trees. They have trees that will catch easier but they maintain their fire, they have an expression, they thin the fuel. The fuel is what’s on the ground, the leaves, the trees that fall, that dry, they’re like a matchstick after 18 months, if they’re on the ground longer than 18 months, they’re very explosive stuff, they have to manage that stuff.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.