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California Gov. Gavin Newsom had a heated response for President Trump Thursday, before praising the ticket at the Democratic National Convention during an appearance that was modified due to the huge outbreak of wildfires at home.
“This is not where I expected to be speaking here tonight,” Newsom said in a video that appeared to be shot on a smartphone as he stood beside a towering tree. “I’m about a mile or so away from one of 370 wildfires that we’re battling here in the state of California.”
Then he responded to criticism the president leveled earlier in the day about the state’s management of dry brush and other flammable material feeding its forest fires.
“Just today, the president of the United States threatened the state of California–40 million Americans happen to live here in the state of California — to defund our efforts on wildfire suppression because he said we hadn’t raked enough leaves,” he said. “You can’t make that up.”
Newsom noted that the outbreak coincided with a record-setting heat wave with triple-digit temperatures and about 11,000 lightning strikes.
“The hots are getting hotter; the dries are getting drier; climate change is real,” he said. “If you are in denial about climate change, come to California.”
CALIFORNIA GOV. NEWSOM SAYS 367 WILDFIRES, 23 OF THEM MAJOR, CONTINUE TO BURN IN STATEWIDE EMERGENCY
Despite the governor’s commitment to hire more than 800 additional firefighters and expand its prevention efforts, President Trump renewed his criticism of the state’s forest management at a campaign stop.
“You’ve got to get rid of the leaves, you got to get rid of the debris, you got to get rid of the fallen trees,” Trump said at a campaign stop in Old Forge, Pa. “You know, when a tree falls, after 13 to 14 months, it becomes extremely dry.”
In this Nov. 17, 2018 photo, President Trump talks with then Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, left, during a visit to a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Responding to critics of his comments about cleaning up the state’s forest floors, the president doubled down.
“Maybe we're just going to have to make them pay for it, because they don't listen to us,” Trump said.
But the federal government actually has approved relief funds for the Golden State as firefighters race to contain hundreds of fires – more than 20 of them considered major incidents.
CALIFORNIA PILOT KILLED IN FIREFIGHTING HELICOPTER CRASH HAD WIFE, 2 DAUGHTERS
Newsom announced additional aid in response to the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire affecting Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties Thursday. On Wednesday, he said the state also was receiving federal assistance to help cover the cost of the Carmel Fire in Monterey County. It scorched 1,200 acres in its first day and has since grown to more than 4,200. It is still uncontained.
A structure is damaged by the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire in Aug. 20, in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The CZU fire charred at least 40,000 acres with zero containment as of early Thursday evening, according to California fire officials. It was threatening more than 20,000 structures and had already destroyed dozens.
Two other major Bay Area wildfires, SCU and LNU lightning complexes, had each grown to more than 130,000 acres and had negligible containment as well. Complex fires are labeled as such when separate wildfires are burning in the same region.
Photographs of the damage show the LNU Complex tore through a mobile home park in Napa County, destroying dozens of homes and vehicles. CZU destroyed multiple houses in Bonny Doon.
Scorched homes and vehicles fill Spanish Flat Mobile Villa following the LNU Lightning Complex fires in unincorporated Napa County, Calif., on Aug. 20. The fire destroyed dozens of homes at the mobile home park with only a handful that remained standing. Fire crews across the region scrambled to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Newsom declared a statewide emergency earlier in the week. Evacuation orders were issued for thousands of residents, including those in parts of Napa, Lake and Sonoma counties. State and local officials have full details about evacuation orders and warnings.
At least two people have died in the recent fires as well, including Michael Fournier, a 52-year-old father of two who was piloting a water-dumping helicopter that crashed on a firefighting mission south of Caolinga Wednesday morning.
The other was a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee who died assisting crews battling the LNU Complex Fire near Vacaville, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday morning.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.