January 9, 2019 – With California’s fire-ravaged communities only beginning to recover from the devastation of 2018, President Donald Trump has issued a threat via social media to cut off FEMA aid to these communities because of his views about forest management.
California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice made the following response.
President Trump’s threat to cut off FEMA assistance to California is a deplorable attempt to play politics with the lives of tens of thousands of wildfire victims. The people of Paradise have only begun to be able to rebuild their lives in these last few weeks. Now, they find themselves being used as pawns in the president’s ill-informed chest-pounding at their expense.
The president’s attempt to pin sole blame for California’s wildfire problems on the state’s forest management is flat wrong. While forest health is a contributing factor in large fires, nearly 60 percent of these forests are controlled by the federal government, not California. The federal government has cut $2 billion from the US Forest Service budget even as California has spent more on forest management.
More to the point, many catastrophic fires in California occur in the wildland-urban interface, fueled by unprecedented weather conditions, drought and development patterns. It is in these communities where the greatest loss of life and property is happening. To hold these victims hostage over a political fight is wrong.
On his first full day in office, California Governor Gavin Newsom established fire prevention and forest management as a statewide priority, with a proposal aimed at combating wildfire, protecting communities and safeguarding forests. This strong focus on what’s important to firefighters and the safety of our citizens stands in stark contrast to the president’s ill-informed tirade.
With the federal government mired in a self-imposed shutdown, the president has little standing to lecture anyone else about dysfunction. Instead of threatening innocent fire victims, the federal government should try working with California – and all Western states – to responsibly address the wildfire threat we face.
California Professional Firefighters represents 30,000 local, state and federal firefighters and paramedics in nearly 180 local affiliates. CPF is the state council of the International Association of Fire Fighters.