He commended first responders for countering the catastrophe and said the federal government will work with local authorities to improve forest management to prevent similar disasters from occurring in the future.
“To see what’s happened here, nobody would have ever thought this could have happened,” Trump said as he visited Paradise, a small community in the Sierra foothills, 175 miles north of San Francisco, where authorities say the remains of at least 71 people have been recovered.
Authorities are still looking for 1,011 more people. However, not all of them may be missing, as officials still need to follow up on many past reports.
Trump was flanked by California Gov. Jerry Brown and governor-elect Gavin Newsom. Usually vocal critics of the president, the two men stood silently by, nodding along with somber expressions as the president spoke.
“Hopefully, this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one,” Trump said of the fire.
Trump blamed the recent spate of fires on forest mismanagement, and he said he discussed the issue with Brown and Newsom on the ride into Paradise.
“I think everybody has seen the light,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have this again to this extent. We’re going to have to work quickly.”
Paradise was home to almost 27,000 residents before it was largely incinerated by a fast-moving fire on the night of Nov. 8.
Authorities attribute the high death toll from the blaze—dubbed “Camp Fire”—partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little warning, driven by strong winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.
More than a week later, firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 55 percent of the blaze’s perimeter. The fire covered 148,000 acres, fire officials said.
Brown said the federal government is doing what it needs to do, including supporting first responders and helping with clean-up and search for victims.
“It’s basically people that are right here, local people, state people, that are doing the work,” Brown said. “Federal government provides some help and a lot of money and some expertise.”
Trump traveled to the Malibu area of Southern California later on Nov. 17 to see the effects of the “Woolsey Fire,” which has killed three people and burned more than 98,000 acres. Thousands of structures across the state have been destroyed.
Before departing for California, Trump told reporters the forest management work should have been done years ago.
“It’s very expensive issue, but very, very inexpensive when you compare it to even one of these horrible fires,” he said. “It will save a lot of lives in addition to a lot of money.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
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