PARADISE (CBS SF/AP) — Among the thousands who have lost their homes in Camp Fire — the nation’s most destructive single wildfire — there were mixed emotions over Saturday’s visit by President Donald Trump.
The fire — which is 55 percent contained– has destroyed more than 10,000 residences and all but turned the towns of Paradise, Magalia and Concow into rubble.
As of Saturday night, the fire had claimed 76 lives with authorities still trying to locate another 1,276 people who may be missing. Dozens of search teams were shifting through the rubble, looking for human remains.
The blaze that started Nov. 8 has displaced 52,000 people — many in crowded shelters and makeshift parking lot evacuee camps.
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Trump came to see firsthand the grief and devastation left behind by the fire and was accompanied by two of his most vocal critics — Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.
Both welcomed the President’s visit, declaring it’s time “to pull together for the people of California.” But the feeling among those who have suffered the most was mixed.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Lindsay Nelson, who fled her home in Paradise. “I mean if you want to understand what we’re going through out here, you got to be here. It’s not something you can just see on TV.”
Likewise for fellow Paradise evacuees George Denora and wife Cathy Denora.
“I respect the job that he’s been doing what he’s been trying to do,” George Denora said. “And I’m happy he’s coming. And I think it will add some brightness to a lot of people.”
But others were not so sure.
“Well I understand now why people in disasters don’t want the president to come right away,” said Charlotte Harkness, who lost her home in Paradise. “It’s already a zoo here and I don’t care who the president is. He needs to wait because the traffic’s already horrendous.”
“They can’t fly into this garbage and clog the roads further. I say wait till things calm down a little bit, and the chaos is gone. We don’t need him here. He could just tweet something nice – three words: I am sorry. And that’s fine.”
The feeling was shared by Terry Lee, who also his home in Paradise
“I don’t believe he’s going to do us any good,” Lee said. “The local people are doing a fantastic job. FEMA is doing fantastic. I think it’s just showboating. He’ll come in and try to take credit after he’s insulted the firefighters, the police, the military, handicap, women.”
Trump has stirred resentment among survivors over comments he made two days after the disaster on Twitter, then reiterated on the eve of his visit.
In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, “This should have been all raked out.”
Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said: “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”
Those comments echoed his initial reaction to the fires Nov. 10 when he blamed the wildfires on poor forest management and threatened then to withhold federal payments. Trump subsequently approved a federal disaster declaration.
“If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you’re going to be accepted? You’re not going to have a parade,” Maggie Crowder of Magalia said this week outside an informal shelter at a Walmart store in Chico.