By Nick Cahill
Less than two months after firefighters extinguished a deadly California wildfire deemed the world’s costliest natural disaster in 2018, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’s nixing emergency aid to thousands left homeless by the fire.
Trump’s provocative but unconfirmed order – the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House are not returning press requests because of the government shutdown – comes a day after the governors of California, Oregon and Washington sent a letter asking for more federal help with forest management.
“Rather than talking past each other, talking down to each other, maybe we can start partnering and doing the work that needs to be done to address our forest health and forest management,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press conference Tuesday where he pledged more than $100 million in new spending toward fire prevention.
Instead of taking the governors’ olive branch, President Trump snapped it with his smartphone.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!” Trump tweeted, misspelling forest twice in his original message.
In his incendiary fire-related tweets over the last two months, Trump hasn’t mentioned that over half of California’s forest lands are federally owned or the impact that the ongoing shutdown is having on the U.S. Forest Service’s preparations for the upcoming wildfire season. Not to mention the Trump administration has routinely proposed cuts to the Forest Service and Department of Interior’s budgets over the last two years.
While it’s not unusual for the West Coast to wake up to another Trump-fueled Twitter war, Wednesday’s tweet reverberated across the Golden State where he remains extremely unpopular. Even members of the California Republican Party implored Trump not to play politics with fire victims.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, whose district includes the town of Paradise that was destroyed last November in the Camp Fire, said cuts to FEMA funding would slow the recovery process. In a four-month stretch, the Carr and Camp fires burned more than 15,000 Northern California homes.
“These are American citizens who require our help. I will continue to work in Congress, and with the administration to ensure we have the funds needed to recover from these disasters,” LaMalfa said in a statement.
State lawmakers agreed with LaMalfa, saying that the “Twitter war” won’t solve the problem. State Sen. Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher, both Republicans representing Paradise, added that the Legislature recently approved $1 billion toward forest management.
“Eighty-six people have died, and tens of thousands of lives have been shattered. This is one of the worst disasters in our nation’s history,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “[Trump] made a commitment to the people who have lost everything in these fires, and we expect the federal government to follow through with this promise.”
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Newsom not only asked for Trump’s cooperation, he complimented the president for quickly providing California with disaster relief money in wake of the fall wildfires.
By Wednesday morning, Newsom was accusing the president of playing games with suffering Californians.
“The people of CA – folks in Paradise – should not be victims to partisan bickering,” Newsom tweeted.