WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — President Donald Trump is taking a more empathetic tone in tweeting about California’s devastating wildfires.
Early Saturday, the president threatened to withhold federal payments to California, claiming its forest management is “so poor.” He also remarked that “there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California.” And he blamed what he called “gross mismanagement of the forests.”
The president of the California firefighters union responded saying President Trump’s threat to withhold federal funds to California is “shameful” and “dangerously wrong.”
California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice said the “shameful attack” on California is an attack on the thousands of firefighters on the front lines.
Rice says Trump’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is “dangerously wrong.”
Most of California’s forest land is owned by the federal government. California only owns 2 percent.
Furthermore, according to Rice, forest thinning would not have stopped the Camp Fire because it’s burning on land that was thinned by flames just 10 years ago.
He pointed out wildfires are sparked and spread “by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography.”
Rice said natural disasters are not red or blue, “they destroy regardless of party.”
“Now is not the time for politics,” said Tom O’Connor, president of the San Francisco Firefighters Union. “It’s time for leadership. It’s not the red and blue states of America, it’s the United States of America.”
O’Connor said the president should offer help, not threatening to pull federal aid when the fires have killed multiple people an destroyed hundreds of homes.
“We need leadership, not partisanship,” said O’Connor.
Rice was more blunt.
“I love my country, I’m proud to be an American, but I am disgusted with my president.”
By late Saturday afternoon, Trump’s tone had changed. In a tweet, he noted that tens of thousands of acres had been burned and said, “Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died.”
Trump closed by saying, “God Bless them all.”
The president is in Paris for events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report