Trump, Newsom spar over funding for Calif. wildfire relief

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SAN DIEGO — President Donald Trump suggested he may cut federal funding to California for wildfire relief during a series of tweets Sunday morning.

The tweets came as many California firefighters continued battling blazes throughout the state.

“The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him,” Trump tweeted. “Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor,” he continued.

The tweets drew a swift response from California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “You don’t believe in climate change,” Newsom tweeted. “You are excused from this conversation.”

The back-and-forth between Trump and Newsom then drew the attention of Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the Democrats currently running in the 2020 presidential race. “Raking leaves is as effective as combatting the climate crisis as your phone’s spellcheck is at fixing your tweets,” Harris said.

California residents are no strangers to the impacts wildfires have on their communities. This year’s wildfire season triggered preventative power outages that left hundreds of thousands of residents without power for days as companies like PG&E, Southern California Edison and SDG&E tried to nullify hazards that put communities at an elevated fire risk. Meanwhile, soaring temperatures and dry, windy Santa Ana conditions paved the way for the fires that did ignite to spread rapidly.

In Northern California, the Kincade Fire burned more than 76,000 acres in Sonoma County, forcing nearly 200,000 people to evacuate. As firefighters battled blazes up north, thousands of crews worked to tame several deadly fires in Southern California.

Wildfires have torched communities throughout California for years — and the debate over federal funding isn’t new, either. In January, Trump suggested improper forest management was to blame for the increasing number of wildfires in a tweet that similarly proposed cutting federal funding to the state.

At the time, fire experts in California and federal officials disagreed that forest management was the cause. In June, officials with the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department warned wildfires were expected to grow more dangerous in 2019 and the years to come, citing climate change, landscapes littered with “excess fuels” and insect outbreaks that leave trees dry and diseased.

According to Cal Fire’s 2019 statistics, 5,061 fires were reported in the state of California between Jan. 1 and Oct. 27 of this year. In an effort to bolster its wildfire response, Cal Fire joined local fire departments in boosting staffing when fire conditions were especially dangerous, as the San Diego Fire Department did when Santa Ana weather settled in around Southern California last month.

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