Trump Threatens to Halt Wildfire Aid to California Victims

  • In Tech
  • 2019-01-09 18:00:48Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump, who has blamed California's forest management for last year's disastrous fires, threatened to halt the Federal Emergency Management Agency's assistance to victims unless that state changes its practices.

"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest fires that, with proper Forrest Management, would never happen," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money."

He corrected the spelling of forest in a subsequent tweet.

Trump has threatened to pull federal funding before such as in November when he said "gross mismanagement" by California for a series of deadly wildfires, including one that destroyed the town of Paradise. California officials and firefighters have said Trump's focus on forest management diverted attention from the role of climate change in fueling the increasingly destructive fires.

The latest announcement drew an immediate response from the state's new governor.

"Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I'm already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses," Gavin Newsom wrote on Twitter. "The people of CA -- folks in Paradise -- should not be victims to partisan bickering."

Daryl Osby, the Los Angeles County Fire Chief, said in November: "We're in extreme climate change now. We can't control the climate."

Moreover, Trump's own agencies are responsible for managing much of the woodland in the state. The federal government owns 57 percent of the state's forests, according to data from the University of California. Another 40 percent is held by companies, Native American tribes or families.

Many of the wildfires that afflicted California late last year were wholly or partly on federal land, according to data from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. That includes the Camp Fire, which touched the Plumas National Forest; the Fork Fire, in the Angeles National Forest just east of Pasadena; and the Essex Fire in the Modoc National Forest in California's far northeast corner.

FEMA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA under President Barack Obama, said he knew of no way Trump could stop sending money for wildfires for which he has already issued a disaster declaration, which he has for the record fires of the past two years.

However, Fugate said that federal law gives Trump the authority to determine whether to issue disaster declarations for future wildfires. If Trump chose not to issue such declarations, it would prevent FEMA from providing financial assistance to state and local authorities, as well as victims of those fires.

"Declaring disasters is entirely the president's discretion; FEMA only makes recommendations," Fugate said in a phone interview.

Trump's charge that California has failed to properly manage its forests is inaccurate, Fugate added. "I would under no circumstances say that Cal Fire and the state of California are neglecting this," he said, referring to the state fire agency.

Trump's latest threat comes as he remains deadlocked in negotiations with Democratic lawmakers, including California Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi, who serves as the House's Speaker, over funding for a border wall that has resulted in a government shutdown that has stretched 19 days.

Pelosi slammed Trump's latest threat, tweeting that it "insults the memory of scores of Americans who perished in wildfires last year."

The Camp Fire in California last year was the costliest natural disaster anywhere in the world in 2018, with a total cost $16.5 billion, according to a report this week by the reinsurance company Munich RE. FEMA has already spent at least $444 million in response to the 2018 wildfires in California, according to figures released by FEMA in December.

"It's absolutely shocking for President Trump to suggest he would deny disaster assistance to communities destroyed by wildfire," California's senior U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday. "Attacking victims is yet another low for this president."

Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalva, the new chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said Trump "knows how to govern only by threats."

"President Trump has already destroyed his administration's credibility by claiming that climate change -- which contributes to making these wildfires even more destructive -- is a hoax," Grijalva said in a statement. "The president's irrational climate denial will mean we need far more disaster relief, not less."

(Updates with reaction from lawmakers starting in 18th paragraph. An earlier version corrected the day of week in the second paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Christopher Flavelle in Washington at;Ari Natter in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at, ;Alex Wayne at, Elizabeth Wasserman

For more articles like this, please visit us at

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


More Related News

Trump Says U.S. Should Sue Facebook, Google in Latest Complaint
Trump Says U.S. Should Sue Facebook, Google in Latest Complaint

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump complained again about supposed bias against conservatives at social media companies and said the U.S. government should sue Google and Facebook Inc. for unspecified wrongdoing.Trump complained in an interview with Fox Business Network on Wednesday that social media

Eric Trump says an employee spit on him at an upscale Chicago cocktail bar
Eric Trump says an employee spit on him at an upscale Chicago cocktail bar

"It was purely a disgusting act by somebody who clearly has emotional problems," the president's son told Breitbart News.

U.S. sues ex-Trump aide Omarosa, alleges failure to file required financials
U.S. sues ex-Trump aide Omarosa, alleges failure to file required financials

The government is seeking a civil fine of up to $50,000 from Omarosa, who spent 11 months as director of communications in the White House Office of Public Liaison before her December 2017 dismissal. Omarosa, as she is typically known, was accused of violating the Ethics in Government Act by not filing the report, which was required because her salary exceeded $124,406, despite several oral and written reminders from White House ethics lawyers.

President Trump imposes new sanctions on Iran as regime accuses US of 'economic' terrorism
President Trump imposes new sanctions on Iran as regime accuses US of 'economic' terrorism

The new sanctions were aimed at retaliating against Iran for shooting down a U.S. drone last week.

US Fed like a
US Fed like a 'stubborn child': Trump

US President Donald Trump on Monday renewed his attacks on the Federal Reserve, saying the central bank's reluctance to cut interest rates was standing in the way of blowout economic expansion. "Despite a Federal Reserve that doesn't know what it is doing... we are on course to have one

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Tech

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.