Donald Trump is doubling down on his stance that the deadly forest fires that have ravaged California leaving 74 dead and over 1,000 missing were caused by poor forest management.
The president spoke to press first thing in the morning from the D.C. lawn before taking off for the West Coast where he’ll be making two stops and will speak with first responders, FEMA representatives and meet with California governor Jerry Brown and governor elect Gavin Newsom.
‘It seems many more people are missing than anyone thought even possible. And I want to be with the firefighters and the FEMA and first responders,’ Trump said prior to takeoff. He’s expected to land around 2pm Eastern time (11am Pacific time) and said he’ll likely return to the White House around 4am Eastern time.
‘We have a lot of things to talk about. We will be talking about forest management. I’ve been saying that for a long time. This could have been a lot different situation…Very expensive issue but very inexpensive when you compare it to even one of these horrible fires and will save lots of lives in addition to a lot of money,’ he said.
However he commended the team of more than 9,000 firefighters on the scene.
‘The firefighters have been unbelievably brave. Some of the stories I read last night…Unbelievably brave,’ he said.
Officials announced that the number of people missing has mounted from 631 on Thursday night to 1,011 on Friday.
Trump said he’ll be making two stops in Northern California and will meet with first responders prior to taking off in a helicopter from D.C. to the West Coast on Saturday morning
He’s expected to land around 2pm Eastern time (11am Pacific time) and said he’ll likely return to the White House around 4am Eastern time. During his quick trip he’ll be meeting with FEMA representatives and firefighters
Remains of at least 71 people have been recovered so far in and around the Sierra foothills hamlet of Paradise that was ravaged by the deadly Camp Fire and an additional three deceased victims were found in the Woolsey Fire. The aftermath in Paradise is seen above
Search and rescue teams say they are focused on finding victims both dead and alive and scoured the blackened ruins of Paradise for signs of survivors on Friday. Yuba and Butte County sheriff deputies pictured carrying a body bag with a deceased victim
A total of 74 one people have died so far in the fires and 13 of those victims have not been identified. Trump tweeted on Friday that some bodies were ‘burned beyond recognition’
Sheriff deputies pictured above carrying a body bag of human remains away from a home left in ruin following the Camp Fire
Harrowing images from Paradise on Friday show the heartbreaking search and rescue efforts where county deputies carried off deceased victims in body bags as the number of missing people mounted to over 1,000
Firefighters carry away a body bag with human remains they discovered at a mobile home park that was ravaged in the Camp Fire in Paradise
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea it’s ‘certainly within the realm of possibility that we will never know’ the exact number of people killed in the blaze
What was already the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history now ranks as one of the most lethal wildfires in the U.S.
Recovery teams in white protective gear with cadaver dogs pressed on with their search for more victims in the flame-ravaged town of Paradise on Friday as authorities sought clues to the fate of those still missing.
Several human remains were taken away from charred wreckage sites in body bags during Friday’s search.
‘We have a significant event, an unprecedented event, where massive numbers of people were displaced and scattered all over Northern California,’ Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said on the growing number.
The missing people list were posted on to Butte County Sheriff’s Office website Friday evening and people who find their names on the list are urged to call the sheriff’s office.
A car with the words ‘Paradise Strong’ painted on the window drives through a Walmart parking lot where Camp Fire evacuees have been staying
But Honea said the list is imperfect and will fluctuate in number because it is raw data that needs to be refined. He said it could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings of names.
He said the list probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they’ve been reported missing. It’s also possible some of those listed as missing are safe, but have not checked in with authorities.
Honea admitted it’s ‘certainly within the realm of possibility that we will never know’ the exact number of people killed in the blaze.
‘It is my sincere hope that we identify everybody who is missing and identify any remains,’ he added according to the Washington Post. ‘But that is the nature of this tragedy. … This is a massive, massive undertaking.’
‘The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary,’ Mr Honea said of the crisis.
‘Now we’re trying to go back out and make sure that we’re accounting for everyone’.
The sheriff asked relatives of the missing to submit DNA samples to hasten identification of the dead, but acknowledged some of those unaccounted for may never be conclusively found.
Remains of at least 74 people have been recovered so far in California. 71 of the victims are from the Camp Fire around the Sierra foothills hamlet of Paradise and three are from the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles. Of the dead, 13 victims are yet to be identified.
The once picturesque town was home to nearly 27,000 residents before it was largely incinerated by the deadly Camp Fire on the night of November 8.
More than a week later, a team of more than 9,000 firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 45 percent of the blaze’s perimeter, up from 35 percent a day earlier. The powerful blazed through more than 142,000 acres in a little over a week.
Nearly 12,000 homes and buildings, including most of the town of Paradise, were incinerated hours after the blaze erupted, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has said.
Thousands of additional structures were still threatened by the Camp Hill fire, and as many as 50,000 people were under evacuation orders at the height of the blaze.
A search and rescue team combs through the debris for possible human remains at Paradise Gardens with the help of sniffer dogs
escue workers shake a burned mattress as they search for bone fragments while collecting human remains from a home destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise
A firefighter searches for human remains in a trailer park destroyed in the Camp Fire in Paradise
Volunteer rescue workers search for human remains in the rubble of homes burned in the Camp Fire in Paradise
A search and rescue dog searches for human remains at the Camp Fire on Friday
A row of cars destroyed by fire along with every house in this Northern California neighborhood
A sign warning to looters sits in the foreground of burned properties in the aftermath of the Camp fire that tore through Paradise
And the blaze isn’t over just yet. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning in the Camp Fire region for Saturday evening into Sunday warning high winds could cause the flames to spread rapidly. The number of fire crews in the area was bolstered to help prevent the fire from gaining traction.
Trump has been heavily criticized for casting blame on poor forest management for the destruction the wildfires caused. He even threatened to cut off unspecified federal aid to California if they don’t take action.
He received flack from the public for first speaking out on forest management in California before sharing condolences for the wildfire victims.
On the eve of a trip to California to survey wildfire damage, Trump told ‘Fox News Sunday’ that he’d spoken with another state’s governor about how to control the spread of fires.
‘You need forest management. It has to be. I’m not saying that in a negative way, a positive — I’m just saying the facts. And I’ve really learned a lot,’ he explained.
‘Nobody’s ever seen what’s going on over there and now they’re saying it could be as many as 600, this just came out before we met, could be as many as 600 people killed, up by 400,’ he added on the fires.
‘It’s incredible what’s going on,’ he said of the missing persons count. ‘And burned beyond recognition, they can’t even see the bodies, it’s incredible.’
His comments won his support from the American Loggers Council, a coalition of state and regional associations representing contract loggers.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the number of people who died now stands at 74 while the number of people who remain unaccounted for now stands at more than 1,011
Sherrif Kory Honea and members of his department visit a makeshift hospital in Paradise
‘President Trump blamed poor forest management for wildfires in California and throughout the West, and there is truth to statements he has made,’ American Loggers Council executive vice president Daniel Dructor said.
‘It’s time to rise above political posturing and recognize that active forest management — including logging, thinning, grazing and controlled burning — are tools that can and must be used to reduce fire risks and help mitigate the impacts to landscapes,’ he added.
Climate change advocates have hit back at the president saying that the globe’s rising temperatures amplifies the threat of wildfires in California.
Environmentalists also fear that Trump’s comments are a underhand effort to make it easier for logging companies to clear-cut forests, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Pasadena Fire Association tweeted the president saying the fire was not caused by forest management at all.
‘Mr. President, with all due respect, you are wrong. 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,’ the association said.
Firefighters in Northern California have mixed thoughts on President Donald Trump’s criticism of forest management but say their main focus is fighting the blaze.
A small dog sits on top of a Camp Fire evacuee’s personal property in a car at a Walmart parking lot
Tents are seen pitched on Friday in a field next to a Walmart parking lot where Camp Fire evacuees have been staying
People drop off freshly baked cookies and cupcakes to Camp Fire evacuees who are living in a Walmart parking lot
As firefighters returned to a command center in the Northern California city of Chico on Friday after 24-hour shifts, some learned for the first time that Trump was scheduled to visit Saturday.
Firefighter Joshua Watson said he viewed the upcoming visit as a sign of support for firefighters, ‘no matter what you think about him.’
Gary Jacobs, a firefighter sent from San Mateo County, said everybody has their own opinions and he stays out of politics.
Trump initially responded to the fires by blaming them on ‘gross mismanagement’ of forests in a tweet on Saturday.
Michael Baldwin, a CalFire captain from Mendocino County, said Trump’s comments that blamed poor forest management for the blaze was ‘ill-informed’ and came at the wrong time.
Many refugees from the fire have taken up temporary residence with friends and family, while others have pitched tents or were camping out of their vehicles.
More than 1,100 evacuees were being housed in 14 emergency shelters set up in churches, schools and community centers around the region, American Red Cross spokeswoman Greta Gustafson said.
The disaster already ranks among the deadliest wildfires in the United States since the turn of the last century
Firefighters worked to keep flames from spreading through the Shadowbrook apartment complex as a wildfire burns through Paradise
A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, California on November 8
Authorities said more than 47,000 people in all remain under evacuation orders in the region.
Search teams, meanwhile, combed through charred, rubble-strewn expanses of burned-out neighborhoods looking for bodies – or anything else that might carry human DNA for identification purposes.
Meanwhile, the remains of eight more fire victims were recovered on Friday, bringing the death toll to 74, he said.
Authorities attribute the death toll partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little advance warning, driven by howling winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.
The Butte County disaster coincided with a flurry of smaller blazes in southern California, including the Woolsey Fire.
The Woolsey fire has been linked with three fatalities and has destroyed at least 500 structures in the mountains and foothills near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles.
The latest blazes have capped a two deadly wildfire seasons in California that scientists largely attribute to prolonged drought they say is symptomatic of climate change.
The cause of the fires are under investigation. But two electric utilities have said they sustained equipment problems close to the origins of the blazes around the time they were reported.