President Donald Trump is blaming poor forest management for the deadly fires in the West Coast of the United States that have so far killed at least 33 people, burned millions of acres and destroyed thousands of homes.
But many of the fires broke out in coastal forests and grasslands, not woodlands.
On a visit to California, Trump was asked whether climate change, along with forest management, was also part of the problem.
“Well, I think something is possible, I think a lot of things are possible,” Mr. Trump said.
“ But as far as the forest is concerned, when the trees fall off after a short period of time, around 18 months, they become very dry.
“They really became like a matchstick and wake up, you know, there’s no longer any water flowing through it.”
Fallen trees and dry leaves on the forest floor “will eventually burst,” he said.
The president said countries in Europe do not have the same problems with forest fires because they manage their forests.
“So we have to do it in California,” he said.
“I mean, people don’t like to make cuts, but they have to make cuts in between.
“So if there is a fire and it breaks out, you have 50 yards cut between them.
“So you can’t catch the other side. They don’t do that. If you go to other countries, or you go to Austria, or you go to Finland, or you go to a lot of different countries and they don’t have fires.”
In a fire briefing, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said his state could do a better job at forest management.
But he told Trump that “it goes without saying that climate change is real and that this is exacerbating this.”
Newsom said: “The ferocity of these fires, and the drought, more than five years, and lost 163 million trees to this drought.”
“And so I think there is at least one area in common in vegetation forest management.
“The drought gets drier. When we have thermal domes, we’ve never seen them in our history, the hottest August on record in the state’s history.”
“If we ignore this science and kind of put our heads in the sand and think it’s all about managing vegetation, then together, we’re not going to be successful in protecting California,” said California State Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crawfoot.
And Mr Crowfoot replied, “I hope science agrees with you.”
In his last speech, Trump said, “Well, I don’t think science really knows.”
Authorities in northern California, Oregon, said more than 20 people were still missing due to the wildfires.
State Gov. Kate Brown said 10 people have been confirmed dead in the state and that number is likely to rise.
She said the fires were a wake-up call to the danger of climate change.
“This is the true pioneer of climate change on the West Coast,” Brown said.
“We saw incredible winds. We saw very cold and hot temperatures. And of course, we have a landscape that has seen 30 years of drought.”
Fires have forced tens of thousands to flee and cast a blanket of smoke that has left Seattle, San Francisco and Portland some of the worst air quality in the world.
The California National Guard has airlifted dozens of stranded people to safety over the past week.
Mr. Trump has authorized federal disaster aid to be provided to both states
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