By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to withhold billions of dollars of federal funding if California does not clean up its forests to reduce the risk of wildfires, a year after some of the worst blazes in the state's history.
"It's hurting our budget, it's hurting our country and they better get their act together," Trump said at a cabinet meeting, aiming his remarks at California Governor Jerry Brown, whom he has frequently criticized over immigration and other policies.
Trump said the state should do more to remove rotten trees and other debris that help fires spread.
California's largest public utility cut off power to about 60,000 customers for up to two days this week as high winds threatened to topple trees and power lines. The cuts were aimed at preventing wildfires such as those that erupted in the state's wine country last fall.
The Ranch fire in California this year was the largest on record in a state where dry, windy and hot weather conditions can produce deadly wildfires.
In August, Trump tweeted that unspecified water diversions to the Pacific Ocean were making California wildfires harder to fight.
California had plenty of water to fight the blazes and the fires are primarily fought by crews hacking away at dry brush with hand tools and bulldozers, not with water, CalFire Chief Scott McLean said at the time.
Trump, a Republican, approved a federal disaster declaration requested by Brown, a Democrat, for those fires.
Representatives for Brown and the state's wildfire protection agency, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Bernadette Baum and Susan Thomas)