WASHINGTON (CBS SF) — After being criticized for what many called insensitive tweets about the California wildfires over the weekend, President Donald Trump on Monday evening approved an expedited request for a major disaster declaration in the state.
The president tweeted about the declaration at 5:19 p.m. Monday.
California Governor Jerry Brown had requested a major disaster declaration from President Trump on Sunday morning “to bolster the ongoing emergency response and help residents recover from devastating fires burning in Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties.”
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President Trump was roundly criticized after several tweets early Saturday when he 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.”
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.”