Editorial: Trump wrongly blames forest management for fires


Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/TNS

An El Dorado County search and rescue team looks for the remains of a body in Magalia’s West Park Drive on Thursday after the Camp Fire burned many homes in the area.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

More than 1,000 people have gone missing and more than 10,000 homes have been destroyed in the past two weeks as the most devastating forest fire in California’s history sweeps through the northern part of the state. There are at least 76 fatalities, higher than in any other forest fire the state has experienced — and the number is only expected to grow as search teams comb through the wreckage.

A tragedy of this size demands both sympathy and a large amount of aid to those affected. Unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump has once again proven himself incapable of appropriately responding to tragedy, resorting to victim-blaming and threats rather than promising to help with disaster relief.

His usual level of sympathy in the face of tragedy on display, Trump tweeted days after the Camp Fire started burning that the federal government would stop giving California funding because the state poorly manages its forests.

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he tweeted. “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!”

Not only is this a callous remark to make amidst a fire that has destroyed thousands of homes and displaced many thousands of people, but the president is blaming the wrong people for the wrong problems.

“Mr. President, with all due respect, you are wrong,” responded the Pasadena Firefighters Association via Twitter. “The fires in So. Cal are urban interface fires and have NOTHING to do with forest management. Come to SoCal and learn the facts & help the victims.”

Forest management hasn’t played a role in either of the two most destructive California forest fires, which include the Camp Fire and the Tubbs Fire last year. The area being burnt by the Camp Fire, which covers more than 200 square miles around Paradise, California, was thinned just 10 years ago by another fire, so management tactics like forest thinning wouldn’t have helped prevent this one.

California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice released a statement in response to the president’s reaction to the fire, calling the president’s message attacking California “ill-informed, ill-timed, and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as those who are on the front lines.”

The president isn’t the only celebrity whose response to the devastating fire has been callous. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West hired a private firefighting company to protect their mansion in Hidden Hills from the Camp Fire. While homes around them were consumed by flames, the couple used their wealth and influence to ensure their property emerged unscathed.

It’s their right to use their money however they want. However, this is a good example of what a 2016 United Nations report on the nexus between climate change and inequality points out — most people can’t afford climate change, which several reports have cited as a cause for the recent uptick in larger, more catastrophic fires in California.

“[D]isadvantaged groups suffer disproportionate loss of income and assets (physical, financial, human and social) when these hazards actually hit them,” the U.N. report said. “Consequently, inequality worsens, and the cycle perpetuates with greater force.”

After a trip to California Saturday, Trump was asked if his opinion had changed regarding climate change. He responded saying there are a variety of causes for forest fires that don’t include climate change.

Thousands of people have lost their homes and belongings, and many await news that missing family members were casualties in the fire. California needs the support of the president and those who have the means to provide much-needed aid — not to mention more serious efforts to address climate change.