President Trump, to Fox News in a new interview:
“I was watching the firemen the other day, and they were raking areas — they were raking areas. When the fire is right over there and they are raking trees, little trees like this, that are, not trees — little bushes. That you could see are totally dry. Weeds. And they are raking them — they are on fire. That should have been all raked out — you wouldn’t have the fires. …
Maybe [climate change] contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management. … You need forest management. I’m not saying that in a negative way, a positive — I’m just saying the facts.”
And to reporters before heading to California on Saturday to have a firsthand look at the wildfire crisis:
“[California officials and I] will be talking about forest management. I’ve been saying that for a long time. It should have been a lot different situation. But the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there’s no question about it. It should have been done many years ago. But I think everybody’s on the right side. It’s a big issue, it’s a big issue, a very expensive issue, but very, very inexpensive when you compare it to even one of these horrible fires. And we’ll save a lot of lives.”
The logging industry stands with Trump, per the Washington Times:
“There is truth to statements he has made,” said Daniel Dructor, executive vice president of the American Loggers Council, a coalition of state and regional associations that represents independent contract loggers. “It’s time to rise above political posturing and recognize that active forest management — including logging, thinning, grazing and controlled burning — are tools that can and must be used to reduce fire risks and help mitigate the impacts to landscapes,” Mr. Dructor said in a statement.
Pesky science, via the AP:
One reason that scientists know that management isn’t to blame is that some areas now burning had fires in 2005 and 2008, so they aren’t “fuel-choked closed-canopy forests,” [Utah fire scientist Philip] Dennison said. In those earlier fires, Paradise was threatened but escaped major damage, he said. In the current blazes, it was virtually destroyed.
The other major fire, in Southern California, burned through shrub land, not forest, Dennison said. “It’s not about forest management. These aren’t forests,” he said.
The dean of the University of Michigan’s environmental school, Jonathan Overpeck, said Western fires are getting bigger and more severe. He said it “is much less due to bad management and is instead the result of our baking of our forests, woodlands and grasslands with ever-worsening climate change.”