Remarks by President Trump in a Briefing on Wildfires | McClellan Park, CA
CAL FIRE Hangar McClellan Park, California September 14, 2020 11:31 A.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Great to be here. Great to be with the Governor. We've been speaking a lot about the problem, and it's a big problem, and it'll get solved. We want to pay our love and respect, and we say "God bless you" to those that were killed in this horrible fire, because it's a series of fire. You put them together, and it's a big monster, Gavin. Right?
GOVERNOR NEWSOM: A big monster.
THE PRESIDENT: But we are showing and give unwavering support for the people of California and, I have to say, for the state of Washington and Oregon, who we're very much in touch with - also declaring your declarations. We have declarations for all three. The governor of California called me up, and we immediately signed the declaration. I think a lot of people would take a lot longer, but we wanted it fast. And I want to thank all of the FEMA people for doing such a great job. We really appreciate it. They've been fantastic. They've been fantastic.
And thank you to Gavin Newsom; Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf; FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor; and all of the people - state and local leaders. They join us today.
And we're having a separate news conference, a little bit later, on some other subjects. And I just want to thank everybody. It's been pretty amazing.
In August, I approved a major disaster declaration for California. I've approved, I think, Gavin, about 40 Stafford Act declarations - so, very quickly, because we want to get this thing taken care of - including fire management assistant grants to help multiple states stop the fires. More than 28,000 firefighters and first responders are combatting the fires in California, Oregon, and Washington. Over 230 soldiers are fighting the August complex fire, and that's the largest fire in California. That's the big one. That's the biggest.
And we want to thank all of the brave fighters. We want to thank these incredible people. The first responders, service members who are racing to the extreme peril, really, of their lives, and extreme danger.
Soon after the event, I'll present the Distinguished Flying Cross to seven military heroes who recently braved raging fire and suffocating smoke to save lives. So we have seven people that were recommended very strongly by your representatives. And we're going to give them a very nice medal - a very important medal for - a U.S. medal that's very powerful, very important. So I know you like that.
Together, we'll keep the people safe. I want to thank the governor for the job he's done. We've had great coordination, great relationship. I know we come from different sides of the planet, but we actually have a very good relationship. A good man.
And, Governor, would you like to say something? Please.
GOVERNOR NEWSOM: Well, it's great to have you back here in the state, Mr. President. Thank you for being here, in particular, with two of the Coast Guard aircrafts that we're now bringing into the California family that are being retrofitted, these C-130s. Just an example - another example of the partnership between the federal government and the state of California. That partnership, of course, extended with the incredible collaborative spirit of FEMA.
Pete has done an amazing job. He's known by first name as "Pete," out here in the state of California. Bob Fenton, his regional director. We're joined by Thom Porter, the chief of CAL FIRE; head of natural resources Wade Crowfoot.
Pleased to have the Fresno County Mayor here, Mayor [Sheriff] Mims. And, of course, supervisor from up north in Siskiyou was kind enough to come all the way down. We've got fires from Siskiyou County, right up there at the border of Oregon, all the way down to the Mexican border.
About a month ago, literally to the day, we began to have a series of 14,000 lightning strikes over a three-day period; 1,100 fires have sparked in the last month; 2.8 million acres, just in the last 30 days, have burned - unprecedented in California history; 3.2 million over the course of this calendar year.
There's over 16,500 firefighters currently out on the lines. And I'm very pleased and I'm very grateful, Mr. President, that you're recognizing some of the other heroes, those National Guardsmen and women that did an extraordinary job saving the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people stranded with some of these most intense fires.
You mentioned the August complex: 789,000 acres, the largest in California history. We have a series of forest fires, but also brush fires and grass fires that we're tackling. We've made great progress in the last few weeks, though tragically we've lost 24 lives, so far, to these battles; 4,200 plus structures have been lost and 44,000 people have evacuated.
I want to thank you and acknowledge the work that you've done to be immediate, in terms of your response to our FMAG requests - 14. We were just talking - Mark Ghilarducci is the head of the Office of Emergency Services - this may be a record that the state has received in the FMAG support, as well as the major disaster declaration, which you referenced, on August 22nd, which was profoundly significant, not only to help us support our mutual aid system, but also individuals that are in desperate need of support.
We can agree to disagree, and I appreciate your frame on the politics of this. But let me just acknowledge two things briefly, and I'll turn it back to you. There's no question, when you look past this decade and looking past almost 1,000-plus years, that we have not done justice on our forest management. I don't think anyone disputes that. I want to acknowledge we have our U.S. Forest representative here.
The state of California, your administration just entered into a first-of-its-type commitment, over the next 20 years, to double our vegetation management and forest management.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
GOVERNOR NEWSOM: I want to thank you for supporting that effort, funding that effort. We acknowledge our role and responsibility to do more in that space.
But one thing is fundamental: 57 percent of the land in this state is federal forest land; 3 percent is California. So we really do need that support. We need that emphasis of engagement. And we are fully committed to working with you to advance that cause.
And final point: I'd be negligent - and this is not - and we've known each other too long - and, as you suggest, the working relationship, I value. We obviously feel very strongly that the hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier. When we're having heat domes, the likes of which we've never seen in our history; the hottest August ever in the history of the state; the ferocity of these fires; the drought, five-plus years; losing 163 million trees to that drought - something has happened to the plumbing of the world. And we come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this.
And so I think there's an area of, at least, commonality on vegetation and forest management. But, please, respect - and I know you do - the difference of opinion out here, as it relates to this fundamental issue on the issue of climate change.
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.
GOVERNOR NEWSOM: Appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Chad, please.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for coming to Sacramento today and, again, taking that decisive action that we heard the Governor talk about in really pulling the full resources of the federal government here to California, as well as to other areas out here in the West.
Let me just - to reiterate, the great partnership that we have between FEMA, and the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE, OES, the governor's office. It's really the partnership - it's really a model that we have out here in California that we think is just fantastic. It's getting a lot of support locally here, very quickly. So I just wanted to reiterate that and say thank you to our partners for what you do every day.
Let me just say they also do a great job on mutual aid. So they pull in a number of fire resources from outside of the state, as well as country, for that matter. We were talking earlier about some international partners that they have here, and we're happy to support that as well.
And then let me just say thanks, as you did, Mr. Se- - Mr. President, to the brave firefighters and all the first responders that are responding every day to the fires that we see here. Those are the - those are the heroes of the day, and we're just happy to be part of that process; happy to support them with the resources through your office, Mr. President; and just really, again, look forward to the partnership we have here and continuing to push that along.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they're doing a great job, and they really have over the years. We've - it's a tough - it's a tough battle, but they've never let us down. Incredible what they're able to do, and the risk and the danger.
Pete Gaynor, please. FEMA.
ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR: Sir, you're going to hear this constantly about the partnership. I can't say enough about the federal, the state, counties, tribes working together out here in California, from the governor on down. It is a true team effort.
And I know - you know, through the major disaster decs and FMAGs have allowed the governor's team to exercise all the resources that the federal government has to protect - to respond and protect life, and that's the number one priority. I know we're going to be working on debris removal, and then lastly, protection of the waters- - watershed event follow-on disasters come the wet season.
So, together, I couldn't ask - be prouder to be part of this team in California.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great. Thank you, Pete. Great job. Let everybody know what we think. Incredible job.
So, Wade and Thom, please.
MR. CROWFOOT: Yeah, well, from our perspective, there is amazing partnership on the ground, and there needs to be. As the governor said, we've had temperatures explode this summer. You may have learned that we broke a world record in the Death Valley: 130 degrees. But even in Greater LA: 120-plus degrees. And we're seeing this warming trend make our summers warmer but also our winters warmer as well.
So I think one area of mutual agreement and priority is vegetation management, but I think we want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests, and actually work together with that science; that science is going to be key. Because if we - if we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together protecting Californians.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. It'll start getting cooler.
MR. CROWFOOT: I wish -
THE PRESIDENT: You just watch.
MR. CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.
MR. PORTER: Mr. President, if you're - if you're okay, I'd like to approach the map.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I'd love that. Thank you.
MR. PORTER: (Inaudible.) (Off-mic.) But I wanted to approach the map because what this displays is very simply - all that we need is (inaudible) - all of those agencies included. Fish and Wildlife Service.