Three vicious wildfires are currently sweeping through California, forcing over 250,000 from their homes and killing at least 31 people, with more than 200 people still missing.
In a characteristic tirade of tweets on Saturday, former game show host and US President Donald Trump blamed the natural disaster on “gross mismanagement of the forests” and then threatened to cut federal funding if they do not “remedy” the situation.
A huge number of experts, firefighters, politicians, and celebrities (it is California, after all) have come out to express anger at the President’s response, describing the tweets as everything from "ill-informed, ill-timed, and demeaning” to “heartless.”
CNN meteorologist Tom Sater perhaps most eloquently and conclusively shut down Trump's comments in a segment aired on Sunday (video below).
“This is wrong on so many levels,” Sater explained. “This has nothing to do with forest management.”
A handful of politicians have highlighted that the government already slashed forestry management funding in their last budget, so cutting their resources even further is unlikely to be helpful.
"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,” Brian Rice, President of California Professional Firefighters, said in a statement.
“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," he added. "Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another one-third under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.”
Fortunately, Senate Republicans in charge of any change to government funds have told reporters that they are not willing to cut any of their funding, saying: "It’s tragic and terrible. And I don't think it's appropriate to threaten funding. That's not going to happen. Funding will be available."
There is also another important factor worth discussing in the face of these wildfires: climate change. While Trump is hesitant to accept the overwhelming evidence that shows humans are contributing to climate change, scientists are noting the idea that wildfires are becoming more severe due to variations in temperature, humidity, and rainfall caused by climate change.
“Scientists and the engineers and the firefighters all tell us forest management is one element,” said California Governor Jerry Brown, according to Politico, who is currently seeking a “major disaster declaration” from the White House to help the emergency response to three catastrophic wildfires.
“Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change – and those that deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedy,’’ Brown added.
Finally, over 14 hours after his initial tweet, Trump sent his condolences to the victims of the wildfires and expressed support for the firefighters of California. Better late than never, eh?