Firefighters work to keep flames from the River Fire from reaching a home as evening winds kick in, on 31 July 2018 near Lakeport, California. Photo: Marcus Yam / LA Times / Getty Images

By Timothy Cama
6 August 2018

(The Hill) – President Trump doubled down on his criticism of California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), saying Monday that the state's water management policies are responsible for deadly wildfires.

“Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean,” Trump tweeted. “Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water - Nice! Fast Federal govt. Approvals.”

Trump said on Sunday that too much water from the northern part of the state is being allowed to flow into the Pacific Ocean, instead of being captured or redirected to use for firefighting, agriculture or other purposes.

The president's remarks echo longstanding Republican arguments that environmental policies like the Endangered Species Act make it harder for California to hold onto its water. Congressional Republicans for years have pushed for policies to direct more water into storage or to the southern part of the state.

But fire officials have generally not complained that they are running out of water to fight the blazes.

California is experiencing one of the worst wildfire seasons in its history. The blazes have killed several people and burned hundreds of thousands of acres.

The Mendocino Complex fire is now the second-largest since record-keeping began, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Lynette Round, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that she is not aware of water shortages for firefighting.

LeRoy Westerling, a professor at the University of California, Merced, who studies wildfires and climatology, told the Chronicle that Trump’s tweet on Sunday “boggles the mind.”

“Even if we eliminated all habitat for riparian species and fish, and allowed saltwater intrusion into the delta and set up a sprinkler system over the state, that wouldn’t compensate for greater moisture loss from climate change,” he said. [more]

Trump doubles down, blaming California's water policies for wildfires


A helicopter crew drops water on a section of the Klamathon Fire burning near the California-Oregon border, 5 July 2018. Photo: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

By Jennifer Calfas
6 August 2018

(TIME) – President Donald Trump has waded into the debate over the cause of California’s enormous and deadly wildfires by claiming that the state’s environmental protection efforts are stopping firefighters from properly battling the blazes.

But state fire officials, climate scientists and ecologists say Trump’s assertion is baffling – and false.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that fast-spreading fires “are being magnified” by “bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized.” On Monday, Trump doubled down on his claims, saying water being “diverted into the Pacific Ocean” can be used for “fires, farming and everything else.”

“We have plenty of water to fight these wildfires,” says Scott McLean, deputy chief at California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), in an email to TIME. “Our changing climate is leading to more severe and destructive fires that we are seeing this year and last.”

“There are no more specifics that I can address,” McLean, of Cal Fire, adds, referring to Trump’s tweet.

Fires have scorched at least 290,000 acres so far in 2018 — more than double the area that’s normal for this time of year, Cal Fire says. The Carr Fire, ignited in late July and still burning more than 160,000 acres near Redding, Calif., has killed at least seven people, including a great-grandmother and her two great-grandchildren. The Mendocino Complex fire, two neighboring fires surrounding lakeside towns north of Santa Rosa, Calif., has ballooned to 224,001 acres — now the second-largest blaze in state history. And experts anticipate the 2018 season will only get worse.

Years of drought have resulted in an abundance of dry vegetation across the Golden State, making it easier for wildfires to start – and allowing them to grow faster and and bigger once they catch. Record-setting temperatures in many cities across California makes the intensity of these fires only worse — to the point where they can create their own unpredictable, destructive weather systems.

Neither the drought, nor California’s water management policies, have stopped firefighters from using all the water they need to fight this year’s wildfires, experts say. And befuddled scientists who spoke with TIME could only guess at what Trump meant in his tweets. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I sort of had to suppress a chuckle when I read the President’s tweet,” says Glen MacDonald, a distinguished professor of geography and ecology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“He clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” echoes LeRoy Westerling, a climate scientist and associate professor at the University of California, Merced. […]

“The problem here is he’s not acknowledging the role climate change is playing in California’s fire problem, and the scale of the problem is far beyond anything he’s talking about doing,” Westerling says. “Anything he’s talking about doing would come nowhere near addressing this problem.” [more]

President Trump Claims California Doesn't Have Water to Fight Wildfires. He's Just Wrong, State Officials Say

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