BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — After doubling down on his link between forest management and wildfires, President Donald Trump arrived in Northern California on Saturday for a first-hand view of the still-raging Camp Fire, the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century that has left at least 71 people dead.
Under a sun largely blocked by a smoky haze, Trump touched down on Saturday afternoon at Beale Air Force Base, about 36 miles south of the devastating Camp Fire that has destroyed 148,000 structures and remains only 55 percent contained. Fire officials do not expect to bring the blaze under control until Nov. 30.
He was met by Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, who joined him aboard Marine One to travel to the hardest-hit area. They said earlier they welcomed the visit, saying it's time “to pull together for the people of California.”
Trump also was expected to stop in Southern California, where a gunman killed a dozen people at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks on Nov. 7 before committing suicide.
Last week, the president blamed state mismanagement of forest land and water resources for the wildfires and threatened to cut off federal funds to the area.
He returned to the topic Saturday before leaving for California.
"We will be talking about forest management, I've been saying that for a long time," he told reporters Saturday before leaving Washington. "
"It should have been done many years ago, but 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," Trump said
The White House also said Trump would be meeting with individuals "impacted by the wildfires."
In more recent days, Trump had tempered the blame-game over the fires, offering prayers for the victims, praise for firefighters and emergency personnel and pledges of federal help.
"We will do everything in our power to support and protect our fellow citizens in harm’s way," Trump said at the White House on Wednesday. "And we say, I think as a group – I can tell you as a group: God bless everybody. That’s a very tough situation."
Major disaster and emergency declarations signed by Trump will cover up to 75 percent of the state's costs for removing debris, providing transitional housing and more, according to the White House.
A public health emergency declared by the Department of Health and Human Services will let Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and their health-care providers meet their immediate health needs, officials said.
In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, “This should have been all raked out.”