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President Joe Biden: West Coast fires 'supercharged by climate change'

Members of a hot shot crew remove fuel along a containment line during the Caldor Fire near Meyers, Calif., on August 31. Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI
Members of a hot shot crew remove fuel along a containment line during the Caldor Fire near Meyers, Calif., on August 31. Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 13 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Monday said the wildfires plaguing the western United States have been "supercharged by climate change" as he traveled to survey damage caused by the blazes.

Biden traveled to Boise, Idaho, to attend a briefing at the National Interagency Fire Center and later visited Sacramento, Calif., where he met with officials of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and surveyed the damage caused by the Caldor Fire.

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"We can't ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change," Biden said. "It isn't about red or blue states, it's about fires. Just fires."

The Caldor Fire has so far burned 220,000 acres across three counties and is 65% contained, according to Cal Fire, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is experiencing 15 large active wildfires as blazes have burned

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Newsom said the state was experiencing "extremes the likes of which we have never dealt with in our state's history" as Biden noted the fires have become a common occurrence in California.

"Everyone in Northern California knows the time of the year when you can't go outside, when the air will be filled with smoke and the sky will turn an apocalyptic shade of orange," he said.

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Biden recalled his recent visits to the Gulf Coast region and the Northeast to survey damage caused by Hurricane Ida as he discussed the varied impacts of climate change.

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"Scientists have been warning us for years that extreme weather is going to get more extreme, we're living it in real-time now," he said.

The president also pitched the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the U.S. Congress as strengthening the nation's "resilience to climate change and extreme weather events," noting that extreme weather cost America $99 billion in 2020 and adding that "unfortunately we're going to break that record" this year.

"When we fail to curb pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes and continue to use fossil fuels as we do, we increase risk that firefighters face," he said. "Each dollar we invest in resilience saves up to six dollars down the road when the next fire doesn't spread as widely and those investments also save lives."

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Biden said Newsom has "led the state with poise" before a scheduled appearance later in the evening at a campaign event for the California governor, who is the subject of a recall election to be held Tuesday.

The election stems from a petition filed against Newsom early last year and lists high taxes, a severe homeless problem in the state and low quality of life as the reasons for the attempted removal. Millions of California residents have already received mail ballots asking whether Newsom should be recalled.

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If Newsom is recalled, his replacement would serve out the remainder of his term until January 2023. Polls show that his likely successor would be right-wing talk radio personality Larry Elder.

Scenes from California's Caldor Fire

Roseville firefighter Kirk Steven sprays down a tree as he allows fuel to be burned off next to a cabin during the Caldor Fire near Meyers, Calif., on Tuesday. Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI | License Photo
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