President Trump threatened to cut federal emergency funding for California’s firefighters in the middle of a partial government shutdown.
On Wednesday morning, Trump complained that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sends billions of dollars to California to fight fires that are the result of poor forest management.
“Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest [sic] fires that, with proper Forrest [sic] Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!” Trump tweeted.
Based on Trump’s phrasing, it’s unclear whether he meant that he has already ordered the funding to stop until the issue is addressed or if he would order the funding to stop if the issue isn’t addressed.
“Disasters and recovery are no time for politics. I’m already taking action to modernize and manage our forests and emergency responses,” Newsom said.
Environmental groups have long opposed the commercial logging of large healthy trees and dispute the notion that it would help prevent fires. It’s true that removing dead undergrowth, such as twigs and needles, would help, but conservationists say that cutting the largest, most fire-resistant trees would leave saplings and other smaller, fire-vulnerable trees exposed.
Jonathan Cox, an assistant chief with San Mateo County Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told Yahoo News this epidemic has many variables and that there’s no silver bullet. Over the last 100 years, overdevelopment, population growth and climate change have all contributed to the problem. He said solving the crisis would require long-term, systemic social change.
Steve Reaves, president of FEMA’s union, appeared alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at a press conference Wednesday. He said FEMA is recovering from one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent memory and last year’s historic wildfires.
“Normally, this is when we restock. This is when we rest our people. This is when we prepare for the next big disaster. What this means is, anyone who needs insurance claims, property damages while we’re out, and the American people ask, ‘Where’s FEMA?’ We’re furloughed,” Reaves said. “We need the government opened now.”
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