Trump Visits California Amid Fire Devastation, Nearly 1,300 People Still Missing

President sees the damage firsthand and stresses the need to care for those 'so badly hurting'


Before leaving the White House on Saturday morning for the fire-ravaged state of California, President Donald Trump suggested to members of the media that perhaps certain forest management decisions were to blame, in part, for the wildfires that have destroyed so much property, caused dozens of deaths, and left families and friends desperately searching for their missing loved ones.

“We will be talking about forest management. I’ve been saying that for a long time. It should have been a lot different situation,” Trump said Saturday before heading out.

“But the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there’s no question about it. It should have been done many years ago.”

Trump was greeted upon his arrival in California by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown as well as by Gov.-Elect Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was also with the president in California, as was senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.

Emergency workers greeted the president.

“I think everybody’s on the right side. It’s a big issue, it’s a big issue, a very expensive issue, but very, very inexpensive when you compare it to even one of these horrible fires. And we’ll save a lot of lives,” Trump said, as The Washington Post and others reported.

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The president also praised the unrelenting work of the firefighters and first responders who have been battling blazes now for some time.

From fire-ravaged Paradise, Trump told members of the media it was “very sad to see” the devastation.

He also noted that “some areas are beyond this” in terms of damage, as CNN and other outlets reported.

The death toll in California has climbed now to at least 76 people, with well over 1,000 people still missing; officials late Saturday said that number may be approaching 1,300.

Just on Thursday night alone, investigators in California revealed that another seven sets of human remains had been found in the northern part of the state’s Camp Fire. And Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that of those people found dead, 53 have been positively identified.

Three of the bodies found Thursday were located in Paradise — a town of 27,000 that has been destroyed by the inferno, as previously reported. Another three were found in Magalia; one was discovered in Concow.

But those numbers and situations already have been trumped by new findings.

The president landed in Chico, in northern California, and met with firefighters and state officials.

“This will be an educational opportunity for all … but the focus is on the people who have lost their homes.”

“When trees fall, they get very dry … You’ve gotta remove them. You’ve gotta remember them,” Trump told Fox News journalist Chris Wallace in an interview that is set to air on Sunday.

Trump said he would be staying in California for as long as he could to give the residents of the state as much help, reassurance and attention as possible.

“For the president to be here … [This] is an opportunity for him to see the devastation firsthand,” said Mike Mohler, deputy director of the California department of forestry in the Golden State, on Saturday afternoon to Fox News.

“The focus is not on the politics but on what we’re dealing with here in California.”

Related: Stars Go to Bat for Those Caught in California Fire Crisis

“The state of California, Cal Fire, along with Gov. [Jerry] Brown’s support … This will be an educational opportunity for all … but the focus is on the people who have lost their homes” and of course those who have lost their lives, Mohler told Fox News on Saturday afternoon.

The so-called Camp Fire in the northern part of the state continues to be investigated; and officials with Cal Fire have not yet confirmed what started the Woolsey fire, which is burning across Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

When a reporter during Trump’s visit asked him if there was “any way to prevent” such a crisis from happening again, Trump responded, in part, “We have been talking about that … I think we’re all on the same path. We have to do management, maintenance, and we will be working also with environmental groups. I think everyone has seen the light and I don’t think we will have this again, to this extent. We’ll have to work quickly, but a lot of people are very much — there has been a lot of study going on in the last little while and I will say I think you’re going to have, hopefully — this will be the last of these, because this was a really, really bad one.”

He added, “Right now we want to take care of the people so badly hurting. The families where they have lost — a lot of people have been lost. I guess we don’t know what the final number is? We won’t know for awhile. There are areas we can’t even get to yet. But we have incredible people doing the job. So we will get that better than anybody else could do it.”

Share your thoughts below — and watch this video as the numbers unfortunately continue to climb.

meet the author

Maureen Mackey served as editor-in-chief and managing editor of LifeZette for nearly five years. Before that, she held senior editorial positions at major publications, helping The Fiscal Times win a MIN Award for Best New Site as managing editor and Reader's Digest win an American Society of Magazine Editors Award for General Excellence as book editor. Her work has appeared in Real Clear Politics, CNBC, A Fine Line, AARP Magazine, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, and The Week, among other outlets. She is a member of the Newswomen's Club of New York and the American Legion Auxiliary.

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