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Trump Again Critical Of Calif. Wildfire Response, Threatens To Withhold Funding

WASHINGTON (CBSLA) – In a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, President Donald Trump blamed California for not doing enough to prevent wildfires, and appeared to threaten to withhold federal funding regarding the matter.

The president began his remarks by noting that other states do not deal with the same kind of widespread wildfire destruction.

"What's happening should never happen," Mr. Trump said. "I go all around the country and I meet with governors and they say there's no reason for forest fires like this in California."

The Thomas Wildfire in Ventura California
Palm trees in flames as the Thomas wildfire rages in Ventura, Calif., on Dec. 7, 2017. Firefighters across Southern California are battling six major fires that are fueled by strong Santa Ana winds with wind gusts of 70 miles per hour. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto)

Over the past 10 months, California has seen the two largest fires in its history.

President Trump
President Donald Trump talks to reporters during a cabinet meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and others in the Cabinet Room at the White House Oct. 17, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In August, the Mendocino Complex – which was made up of two fires – burned some 1,100 homes in and around the Redding area and killed eight people. It is the largest fire in California state history, burning more than 459,100 acres.

In December of 2017, the Thomas Fire broke out near Thomas Aquinas College in Ventura County. It burned more than 281,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties over about six weeks. Two people were killed, including a state firefighter. The flames destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.

The causes of both fires remain under investigation.

"So I say to the governor, or whoever is going to be the governor of California, 'you better get your act together,'" Mr. Trump said Wednesday. "'Cause California, we're just not going to continue to pay the kind of money that we're paying, because of fires that should never be to the extent."

Mr. Trump did not specify how the federal government would potentially withhold funding or how much.

So far this year, 6,431 wildfires have been reported across the state, burning 1.36 million acres, according to CAL Fire.

"Here we are with thousands of acres and billions and billions of dollars every year, it's the same thing," Mr. Trump said. "And they (California) don't want to clean up their forests because they have environmental problems in cleaning it up. It should be the opposite. Because you're gonna lose your forests, you'll lose it. It's costing our country hundreds of billions of dollars because of incompetence in California."

Mr. Trump has long been critical of California's wildfire response. In August, he tweeted that California's wildfire issues were "being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized."

CAL Fire responded to the tweet by stating that the state has "plenty of water to fight these wildfires."

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