Trump blames self for fires

Around here, the big news is that everything is on fire!

Well, the fire is a bit too far away for me to personally to be in danger.  Nonetheless, it’s impossible to ignore.  See, the air quality took a sharp downturn.  You can smell it in the air, see it in the sky, and people roam the streets with N95 masks.  Businesses are all proceeding as usual, but personally, as an asthmatic, I’ve been trying to avoid going outside.  My partner and I decamped from our bedroom because something about the ventilation is allowing dust particles into that room.

I don’t know what to say.  People died, and cities were burnt to the ground.  Not much entertainment to squeeze out of that, except maybe a few sad puns about Paradise lost.

Oh I know, we could look at what horrible thing Trump has said.  Maybe that will brighten things up.

So on Twitter, Trump blamed the mismanagement of forests, and vaguely threatened to withhold federal emergency funds.

There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!

PZ made it out like it was a non-story, because Trump is always being an asshole.  But I was left wondering, perhaps there’s a grain of truth in what Trump says.

See, 60% of California forests are managed by the federal government (and one third is under private control).  So… is Trump admitting that his own administration is responsible for everything being on fire?

It’s not that much of a stretch.  In the federal budget for fiscal year 2018, Republicans cut funding for the US Forest Service by 118 million dollars.  The USFS has a total budget of about 5 billion, for reference, so it’s a small fraction, but not nothing.  Arguably, the budget for USFS should have gone up, given the growing risk of wildfires from climate change and drought.

On the other hand, it should be mentioned that wildfires aren’t just a forest thing.  They burn through brush too.  And whole cities.


  1. Bruce says

    Trump apparently wishes to implement the vision of popular song:
    They should have paved Paradise and put up a parking lot, over all of California. Then there could be no more fires. Or fruits and vegetables. Or trees.

  2. ridana says

    I wish there was some consistency in the numbers people keep throwing around about how much CA is responsible for and how much the USFS is (as well as private owners). I’ve seen numbers as high as 30% for CA and as low as 2%, while I’ve read that the federal government owns as little as 40% up to 60%. And these are not sources that bear Trump any good will. It sort of makes it harder to present the argument when CA haters are ready to jump on any flaw to avoid the reality that the administration bears significant responsibility for this.

    But the fact remains, Trump is an asshole who knows as little about CA forest management and firefighting as he does about water policy. Both are far too complex for him to even begin to grasp. All he can picture is “fire bad; trees burn so trees bad; water good. Cut down all trees; keep water out of ocean.”

  3. says

    I was just reporting what the newspapers were saying, although you could probably find more reliable numbers by googling it and finding the relevant government reports. According to this report (page 20), it looks like the government owns about 57%, the state owns 2%, counties 1%, and the rest is private.

    Talking about Trump’s tweet is, as I say, just a bit of entertainment. I don’t really know why this fire season is so bad, or if anyone could be said to be responsible for the problem. Which is probably the same as you could say for most natural disasters. Threatening to withhold federal emergency funds is pretty bad though. (For context, Trump is referring to the fact that the federal government gave California some emergency funds for the last fire season.)

  4. anothersara says

    On a practical note, have you considered using a HEPA air filter, particularly in that bedroom with the problem ventilation? I have one in my room going at full blast right now. I did not originally get it to deal with the wildfire smoke, but I’m sure glad I have it now. I’ve read they can filter out a lot of PM 2.5, which is considered the most dangerous pollutant in wildfire smoke (they also can filter out dust particles).

  5. says

    The filter might be good, but I’m not sure I’d be able to get it so quickly. I haven’t looked into it though.

    Same with the masks. I could not find it in stores. I was thinking I’d order some afterwards, but they’d only be good for the next fire.

  6. anothersara says

    It’s not good to rush on the filter because there are many options and they vary in quality (i.e. it’s a very good idea to do your homework before buying). It’s something for the long run, not the next few days.

    I live near a hospital which gives out N95 masks for free, and AFAIK they never ran out (I guess they keep a large stock on hand at all times). If you live near a hospital, you may want to check if they have a similar program.

  7. ridana says

    @Siggy: I wasn’t blaming you. I’d just read a lot of articles and sites and quotes and tweets even from people in positions who should know, and everyone was giving different numbers (that often added up to more than 100%). That’s what I was finding frustrating. The link you provided (thanks!) seems like it has the most definitive figures I’ve seen so far, but it’s apparently not the source where most of those people were getting their numbers.

    Can’t wait till the rains come (assuming they do) and Trump chews us out for all the mudslides in the burned areas.

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