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Gov. Brown, Interior Sec. Zinke Downplay Rift With Trump Over Calif. Wildfires

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MALIBU (CBSLA) – Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke Thursday toured areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties which have been torched by the devastating Woolsey Fire.

Gov. Brown, Interior Sec. Zinke Tour Downplay Rift With Trump Over Calif. Wildfires
Gov. Jerry Brown (left) and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at a news conference in Camarillo, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2018. (CBS2)

The two men surveyed the fire damage and then joined officials for a news briefing in Camarillo.

"There's no silver bullet to these fires," Zinke said Thursday. "The seasons have gotten longer, the temperatures are hotter, we're in the midst of a historic drought. The tree density has become greater, the amount of underbrush has become great. The fuel load, the solution is working together."

Zinke's visit follows pointed criticism from President Donald Trump last week in which he alleged California officials were at fault for not doing enough to prevent the plethora of large wildfires which have ravaged the state in recent years.

In a tweet on Nov. 10, the president blamed "gross mismanagement of the forests" for the deadly wildfires ripping through California.

"It's unsustainable to have this happen year after year, or have a season like this where you have hundred-thousand-acre fires becoming routine," Zinke said. "This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an American issue, and we should address it as such."

Both Zinke and Brown downplayed the public rift between Brown and the Trump administration and tried to emphasize that the three men have a good working relationship. On Monday, Gov. Brown secured a Major Disaster Declaration from the White House which provides extra federal funding for the fires burning in Northern and Southern California.

"President Trump told me on the telephone yesterday that he's completely behind California in getting this recovery underway," Brown said.

When pushed on this issue by reporters, Brown responded: ""President Trump told me they're going to do everything possible to help California in this time of need. There's a lot of statements, a lot of loose rhetoric, but I think we're on the right path right now and we're going to all work together."

As of Thursday, the Woolsey Fire has torched more than 98,000 acres and was 57 percent contained. At least 504 structures have been destroyed. The fire broke out Nov. 8 south of Simi Valley. On Nov. 9, it jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway near Calabasas and began spreading into Malibu.

"We've got to get on the side of nature, we can't just fight it, and we do that in many ways," Brown said. "And it will be expensive, we're not talking hundreds of millions, we're talking tens of billions for the whole state of California."


Brown was also slated set to attend the memorial service in Westlake Village for Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus, who was one of the 12 people shot and killed by a gunman at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks on Nov. 7.

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