California's Fires are Not Easy to Solve

November 8, 2019

It is wildfire season, and California has been hit hard again. People are being harmed, their homes are being wrecked and entire ecosystems are being compromised. Although these fires are a yearly occurrence, the wreckage they cause is damaging entire communities, and repair needs to be completed with compassion. However, in recent years this has not been the reality; the response to the fires by President Trump has been accusatory and spiteful, and in many cases, supported by false claims.

 

Although President Trump provided federal funding to California for support after the fires, he made it clear that he preferred not to during a Twitter quarrel with the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom. The President took to social media to share his disapproval with the state’s management of the fires, tweeting, “Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing - and then he (Newsom) comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states.” To begin, it is clear the president is not considering the impact of climate change on these fires. Yes, California has fires every year, but there is not only poor forest management to blame; an article in the New York Times cites the drier landscape and stronger wind currents as a catalyst for these fires, which are both the result of climate change. Until President Trump accepts the science behind these issues and leads the nation to take action to mitigate it, it is unfair to accuse California of being poorly equipped to deal with these natural disasters. 

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF NPR                    

 

Furthermore, the President does not make it abundantly clear what he expects California to do to help prevent these fires. In fact, the state did take some action to help prevent wider spread damage, such as being overly cautious when encouraging evacuations, some companies conducting planned blackouts and having more emergency responders on standby, according to the New York Times. Or, perhaps he expects better forest management. If this is the case, then the federal government is largely responsible, seeing as they manage 57 percent of California’s forests, according to AP. Instead of recognizing the efforts that the state has made to try to improve the situation, and offering aid and expertise to better it, the President instead focuses on the negative in a time when the people of California need a strong federal government supporting them.

 

Lastly, Trump makes blatantly false claims in order to support his insults to California’s government. In his tweet, he claims that other states are not experiencing the same amount of widespread fires as California is, insinuating that this must be due to California’s mismanagement and poor preparation. However, AP fact-checked this and found it to be false. In fact, many other states, such as Alaska, Nevada and Oklahoma, have consistently faced just as much, if not more, burning than California has. These burns are due to a large number of environmental factors, including the natural climate of the ecosystems in these areas. Until Trump can prove that he is sensitive to these issues in his criticisms, he should not comment on these issues. 

 

Fire management is complex and completely dependent on a number of environmental factors specific to California. To do it properly, a great amount of expertise and environmental scientists need to be involved in all decision making—but even this is not something the president supports. This is not to say that California does not have room to grow in its forest management or fire prevention programs; there is a lot more that could be done. But this change is not going to come from a spiteful president who is not educated on the issue.

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