President Trump and Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden on Monday tackled the wildfire crisis in the West as the infernos consumed millions of acres in California, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere with no end in sight.
Biden blamed climate change for the blazes while Trump assured state officials in California it would get cooler.
The fires have produced an air quality crisis in the San Francisco area that is not expected to abate until October. This fire season is considered the worst in California history, with firefighters struggling with strong winds and low humidity. Oregon is experiencing the worst season in 30 years.
About three dozen people have died because of the conflagrations.
“This year alone, nearly 5 million acres have burned across 10 states — more acres than the entire state of Connecticut. And it’s only September,” Biden noted in remarks prepared for delivery in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden attacked the administration for failing to develop a comprehensive strategy for fighting climate change.
“What we’re seeing in America, in our communities, is connected to all of this, with every bout with nature’s fury caused by our own inaction on climate change,” Biden said, characterizing Trump as a “climate arsonist.”
“The West is literally on fire and he [Trump] blames the people whose homes and communities are burning,” Biden said, noting the president has again threatened to withhold federal funds from the people of California “because they didn’t vote for him.”
“Donald Trump’s climate denial may not have caused the record fires, record floods and record hurricanes,” Biden said. “But if he gets a second term, these hellish events will become more common, more devastating and more deadly.”
Trump has largely ignored the fires, acknowledging them for the first time Friday night when he tweeted he was with firefighters “all the way.”
At an appearance Monday in Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the president, who sandwiched a two-hour stopover between campaign appearances, to “please respect” difference of opinion on climate change.
“We come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident — that climate change is real,” Newsom said.
“Well, I don’t think science knows actually,” Trump said in response to California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, who took issue with Trump’s statement that things will “start getting cooler.”
Trump again blamed forest maintenance for the fires and recommended removing debris from forest floors.
Experts agree the crisis is the result of both climate change and mismanagement of forest land. But the Utah State University Forestry Extension noted organic matter on forest floors is necessary to nourish tree roots and keeps grasses and other plans from competing with trees.
The federal government is responsible for 45% of the acreage in California.