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Remarks at the Camp Fire Incident Command Post and an Exchange With Reporters in Chico, California

November 17, 2018

Governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr., of California. I'll just say a few words. We all know of how tragic this has been, and I find it very hard to find just the right way to put it. People are really working hard. People have suffered. And so many people from so many different places and backgrounds and services have pulled together.

And I can say: Thanks to the firefighters and first responders, and thanks to the Federal Government. FEMA has been terrific. And I really appreciate the President himself being here and putting the focus and the spotlight on probably the worst tragedy that California has ever faced, at least from a fire situation.

President Trump.

The President. Well, thank you, Jerry. And I just want to also thank FEMA; law enforcement—you folks have been incredible; first responders; the firefighters. They're out there now. They want to be fighting—you know, they've got a lot of territory to cover.

Still going very heavily. There's a big area of very intense flame right now that's next to a very explosive area, wouldn't you say? I mean, that's a very big problem out there going. And they're fighting, and they're fighting like hell.

We've never seen anything like this. In California, we've never seen anything like this, Jerry. It's like total devastation.

But again, I want to thank everybody. And Brock is going to give you a little presentation as to where we're going, what we're doing, and how we're doing it.

But again, the men and women that are fighting this fire are incredible. You know that more than 70 people are lost, are gone. And we're looking for hundreds of people right now. There are literally hundreds that they're looking for.

And hopefully, that's going to be a good conclusion instead of a bad conclusion. Maybe they left, and maybe they're with their loved ones somewhere else, and we just don't know about it. But they're looking for hundreds of people. And we'll know the answer to that over the next 48 hours, I think, for the most part.

Brock, perhaps you could give a little bit of a presentation as to how we're going to stop the rest of this monster.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Brock Long. Yes, sir. So, Mr. President, as we've discussed, this is probably the worst disaster that I've seen in my career. And it's going to take a partnership at all levels of government, not only, you know, helping the Governor achieve his response-and-recovery goals, but also it's the time for neighbor helping neighbor. That's what's most important.

FEMA is on the ground. I've been here since Tuesday making sure that we have full situational awareness on how to help the State achieve what needs to be done when it comes to the firefighting, but also the—you know, the taking care of people part, the mass-care issue. So we have set up disaster recovery centers. We're also asking people to call 1-800-621-FEMA or to go to register. To this point, as of this morning, I think we've had over 12,000 people already registered into our assistance system. And we've handed out close to $3 million directly to those who have qualified for assistance.

Obviously, the firefighting is the main priority and taking care of people and making sure that we can get people transitioning out of shelters into longer term homes. And then we're also working with Mark Ghilarducci in the State of California, who has done a tremendous job making sure that we help him understand how we're going to do debris removal and get the infrastructure back up so that we can start to help communities like Concow and Paradise strive for a new normal.

So with that, I think it's time for us to turn it over to the incident commander. So he's fighting the fire.

The President. Yes, please.

CAL FIRE Division Chief Dave Russell. Mr. President, if I could turn you to this. So this is a progression map of the fire. The blue was the very first day, when we experienced the most significant damage. Obviously, it went almost 55,000 acres within the first 12 hours, and then almost 8,000 structures were burned in that time.

So—[inaudible]—Concow to Paradise—[inaudible]—even Magalia were all part of that. There are still significant challenges to the Feather River drainage and the weather they're receiving there, the winds, and the red-flag warning that is still coming this weekend along——

The President. [Inaudible]

Chief Russell. Absolutely. This whole area, especially in the river drainage. And there's still communities of Berry Creek and other communities outside the burn area that we are concerned about.

The President. Well, good luck.

Chief Russell. Thank you very much, sir.

The President. You're welcome. Thank you. Thank you everyone. Thank you.

Forest Management

Q. Mr. President, do you see any role of climate change in the—in these fires that we've seen in California recently?

The President. Say it?

Q. The role of climate change in these fires in California?

The President. Well, I think you have a lot of factors. We have the management factor that I know Jerry has really been up on and very well. And Gavin is going to—we're going to be looking at it together. And right now that seems to be a very big problem. And we're going to get that problem solved.

In the farm bill, we're putting quite a bit of money—about $500 million—in the farm bill for management and maintenance of the forests beyond this area. But really, management—$500 million. That will be in the farm bill. We just put it in. The farm bill is moving along pretty rapidly for our great farmers. But we have a new category and that's management and maintenance of the forests. It's very important. I want to thank you folks over there. Right there. Law enforcement. Great. Great job.

Climate Change/Forest Management

Q. Does seeing this devastation, though, change your opinion at all on climate change, Mr. President?

The President. No. No. I have a strong opinion. I want great climate. We're going to have that. And we're going to have forests that are very safe, because we can't go through this every year. We go through this—and we're going to have safe forests. And that's happening as we speak—as we speak.

Federal, State, and Local Government Cooperation

Q. You said the fire—you said there needs to be changes with fire management. Should the State and local officials have done anything differently at this point?

The President. No, we're going to work together with the Federal Government. No, State, local, and Federal Government. Federal Government is going to work with the State and local, and we're going to help them with funding. And we're going to take—it's going to take a lot of funding, I will tell you that.

Forest Fire Prevention and Response Efforts

Q. Should they have done things differently before this point?

The President. A lot of things have been learned. A lot of things have been learned. And they've been working very hard, and I think you're going to see something very spectacular over the next number of years.

Gov. Brown. I think if you really look at the facts, through a very open point of view, there are a lot of elements to be considered. And the President came, he saw, and I'm looking forward over the next months—and even beyond—to really understand this threat of fire, the whole matter of drought, and all the rest of it.

And it's not one thing; it's a lot of things. I think if we just open our minds and look at things, we'll get more stuff done.

The President. Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 12:40 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Governor-elect Gavin C. Newsom of California. Administrator Long referred to Mark S. Ghilarducci, director, California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on November 18.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at the Camp Fire Incident Command Post and an Exchange With Reporters in Chico, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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