California’s governor expressed optimism Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump would support the state as it battles one of the worst wildfires in its history.
Following Trump’s visit to California the day before, Democratic governor Jerry Brown said that the president has “got our back” and has pledged to continue to help in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
“The president not only has signed a presidential declaration giving California substantial funding, but he said and pledged very specifically to continue to help us, that he’s got our back,” Brown said. “And I thought that was a very positive thing.”
Brown also suggested in Sunday’s interview that California’s wildfires will make the most ardent of climate change skeptics believers in the coming years.
Trump visited California Saturday to get a close-up look at the widespread damage that raging wildfires have inflicted on the state. He flew from Washington to California and back to Washington in one day.
“Nobody would have ever thought this could have happened,” he said to reporters after walking through burned-out ruins in the Northern California town of Paradise. “It’s like total devastation.”
At least 9,700 homes were destroyed in the flames and 76 people have died. More than 1,000 people are missing. The blaze known as the Camp Fire is now the deadliest one in California history. More than 5,500 firefighters are still trying to bring it under control. “I think people have to see this really to understand it,” Trump said.
Trump was accompanied on his visit by Paradise Mayor Jody Jones, California Governor Brown, Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, and Federal Emergency Management Agency head Brock Long.
He pledged to the California officials the support of the federal government, saying, “We’re all going to work together.” He vowed also to work with environmental groups on better forest management and added, “Hopefully this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one.”
But when asked if the fire had changed his mind on climate change, Trump said, “No, no.” He said he believes a lot of factors are to blame.
The president also visited a local command center in Chico, California, and praised the firefighters and other first responders. “You folks have been incredible,” he said, adding that those battling the flames are “fighting like hell.”
More than a week after the blaze erupted and raced through Paradise, the fire has burned about 590 square kilometers and is about 50 percent contained, officials said.
Late afternoon, Trump landed in Southern California, where the Woolsey Fire has burned nearly 390 square kilometers. Fire officials say the blaze had been about 60 percent contained by Friday. Evacuated residents are returning to the area.
En route from Northern to Southern California, Trump told reporters he had not discussed climate change with Governor Brown and Governor-elect Newsom, both of whom accompanied him on the flight.
“We have different views,” Trump said. “But maybe not as different as people think.”
On the same issue, Brown told reporters, “We’ll let science determine this over a longer period of time. Right now we’re collaborating on the most immediate response and that’s very important.”
Steve Herman contributed to this report.