Donald Trump threatened to withhold emergency funding from California because the state had ignored his “raking” theory of forest management to prevent wildfires.
As firefighters battled hundreds of wildfires across Northern California, Mr Trump told a campaign rally in Pennsylvania that the state should pay for the damage because they ignored his recommendations after previous fires.
“Maybe we’re just going to have to have them pay for it because they don’t listen to us. We say you’ve got to get rid of the leaves, you’ve got to get rid of the debris, you got to get rid of the fallen trees,” Mr Trump said on Thursday.
“And they just don’t want to listen. They mocked us when I said that. You got to ‘clean your floors’, just an expression, clean the floors, and they have many, many years, decades of leaves, dry leaves and everything. That’s why they have it.”
The president first used the expression about cleaning and raking the forest floors in the aftermath of the California wildfires in November 2018, which he appeared to blame on forest management over climate change.
At the time, he said the state needed to clean the floors of the forest as he claimed had been successful in other countries like Finland.
“I was with the president of Finland and he said … we’re a forest nation, he called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. They don’t have any problem, and what it is, it’s a very small problem,” Mr Trump said in 2018.
However, Sauli Niinistö, the president of Finland, later said they had only discussed having a good surveillance system and that the issue of “raking” or “cleaning” had not come up.
Mr Trump again referenced “forest cities” like those of Finland on Thursday, saying they have more flammable trees than California but don’t have any problems with wildfires.
“I said you’ve got to clean your floors you’ve got to clean your forests. They’ve many, many years of leaves and broken trees. And they’re like, like so flammable you touch them and it goes up,” he said.
“I’ve been telling them this now for three years. But they don’t want to listen.”
The California wildfires have so far killed at least one person, pilot Mike Fournier who died on Wednesday when his helicopter crashed while battling a 1,500-acre fire in Central Valley.
Smoke across the state can be seen in satellite footage spreading out from the Pacific Ocean to Montana, while nearly 11,000 lightning strikes were recorded in a 72-hour period with almost 400 fires raging.