President Trump has previously called for tree clearing to help avoid future fires. Experts say the forests currently burning have up to 25 times the tree density of healthy forests.
Tweeting from histrip to Europe, President Trump blamed forest mismanagement for the trio of deadly wildfires in California that have burned tens of thousands of acres, displacing thousands, and leaving at least nine dead.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he said early Saturday. “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’s not the first time Trump has blamed forest management on deadly wildfires. Earlier this year, when the deadly Carr Fire killed eight people near the town of Redding, California, he tweeted that the disasters were made worse by “bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized.”
Tom Bonnicksen, a retired forestry expert and fire researcher, told the San Francisco Chronicle that indeed, a lack of forest management was partly to blame for the fires’ intense heat and rapid spread.
“There are millions and millions and millions of dollars going into fighting fires,” Bonnicksen said, “but there are not millions and millions and millions of dollars going into preventing the fires.”
That lack of oversight has left forests with an overabundance of smaller trees and shrubbery, which can be among the first vegetation to fuel a fire, while larger trees take much longer to return.
A healthy forest, experts told the paper, should have 60-80 trees per acre, while the forests around Paradise — home to 27,000 people that is now completely charred — have as much as 2,000 per acre.
In Northern California, the Camp Fire has grown at a pace of 80 football fields per minute after starting Thursday morning. Four people were burned to death in their cars, the Butte County sheriff Korey Honea told the Associated Press. One deceased person was found near a vehicle.
As of 6:00 a.m. PT, the blaze had burned 90,000 acres in just over 24 hours and was 5% contained.
More than 6,700 structures were destroyed. It is now considered the most destructive wildfire in California history in terms of the number of structures destroyed.
To the south, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, two smaller fires also started Thursday and are now creating havoc for drivers and forcing homeowners to flee. The Woolsey and Hill Fires are burning through parts of Ventura and LA counties. The flames have threatened the homes of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and shut down stretches of the 101 freeway.