President Donald Trump's comments about wildfires in California – apparently faulting the the state for destructive infernos – were "hurtful," Los Angeles County's fire chief said Monday.
As the massive Woolsey Fire continued for a fifth day, Chief Daryl Osby was asked at a late morning news conference about Trump's weekend tweets that repeatedly faulted "forest management" in California.
"I don't really want to politicize our efforts right now," Osby said. "I can just tell you we're in extreme climate change right now. We don't control the climate. We're doing all that we can to prevent incidents and mitigate incidents and save lives."
"I personally find that statement unsatisfactory, and it's very hurtful for all first responders that are putting their lives on the line to protect lives and property," Osby added.
Trump on Nov. 10 tweeted his first comments about the deadly Woolsey and Camp fires, focusing on "gross mismanagement of the forests" in California, saying there is "no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor."
The president concluded with an apparent threat to withhold federal money from the state.
The comment was rebuked by political leaders in California, as well as by the spokesmen for the international and state firefighters' unions.
Many noted that the federal government owns nearly half the land in California, and is overwhelmingly responsible for "forest management" in the vast acreage controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.
Later in the day Nov. 10, the president encouraged residents to heed evacuation orders, and wrote: "Our hearts are with those fighting the fires."
Early Nov. 11, on Veterans Day while in France, Trump returned to his earlier focus, writing: "With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!"
The fires burning in Southern California are generally fueled by dry brush and chaparral burning near suburban homes amid high Santa Ana winds and extremely low humidity. They are not burning timber.
The 113,000-acre Camp Fire east of Chico, which has killed 29 people and leveled the town of Paradise, has likewise spread mostly through dry vegetation.
Forest management is not at issue in the recent fires, fire science experts told the Associated Press.
"It's not about forest management. These aren't forests," University of Utah fire scientist Philip Dennison told the wire service.
On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown called the wildfires "the new abnormal" for the state, pointing to climate change as a contributor to massive fires that will likely continue for 15 to 20 years.