U.S. News

Trump surveys Camp Fire damage as deaths rise to 76; missing tops 1,000

By Sam Howard, Sommer Brokaw and Allen Cone   |   Updated Nov. 18, 2018 at 10:00 AM
President Donald Trump and Paradise Mauor Jody Jones survey damage Saturday caused by the Camp Fire in Northern California. Photo courtesy realdonaldtrump/Instagram President Donald Trump appears with members of the Butte County Sheriff's Office and Paradise Police Department while surveying damage from the Camp Fire in Northern California on Saturday. Photo courtesy Butte County sheriff/Facebook President Donald Trump walks off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House returning from California after viewing damage from that state's wildfires. Photo by Tasos Katopodis Signs and messages are set up at a makeshift camp in a Walmart parking lot in Chico, Calif., on Saturday. More than 1,000 people have been reported missing, according to media reports. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI Burned out cars cover a lot in the ruins of Paradise, Calif., on Satuday. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI Members of the Plumas County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue rake through ruins in Paradise, Calif., on Saturday. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI Only a staircase remains of a two-story building in Paradise, Calif. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Saturday visited damage from the Northern California's Camp Fire, saying it was "a really, really bad one" -- with 76 dead, more than 1,000 missing and nearly 150,000 acres scorched.

Trump flew to California from Washington, D.C., and surveyed the scene Saturday in Butte County. Hours after the president traveled to Southern California to also check damage at the Woolsey Fire, the Butte Sheriff's Office announced an additional five fatalities were confirmed, all in Paradise.

In the town, Trump's presidential motorcade pulled into a mobile home and RV park.

"Right now we want to take care of the people who have been so badly hurt," Trump said. "This is very sad to see. As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet."

Trump said he was surprised at the level of destruction.

"Hopefully, this will be the last of these, because it was a really, really bad one," the president said. "People have to see this to really understand it."

Trump signed a major disaster declaration to provide federal aid for the state on Monday, four days after the fires started in Northern and Southern California. The Hill Fire, which torched more than 4,500 acres in Ventura County, is 100 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

As reporters questioned him in Paradise, Trump stood by his remarks last week when he threatened on Twitter to withhold federal funds, blaming forest management for "gross mismanagement of the forests."

"Other countries do it differently, it's a whole different story," Trump said, citing purported comments from the president of Finland on how that country deals with its forests.

They engage in "raking and cleaning things and they don't have any problem," he added.

Trump avoided his criticism of California's fire and forest management and praised the state's first responders.

"We do have to do management, maintenance. We'll be working also with environmental groups," Trump said. "I think everybody's seen the light.

"We're all on the same page now. Everybody's looking at that. It's going to work out well," he added.

That included unity with Gov. Jerry Brown, who is a Democratic rival.

"Hopefully, this will be the last of these, because it was a really, really bad one," the president said. "People have to see this to really understand it."

California Professional Firefighters President Brian K. Rice, who has called the president's tweet "ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning" to victims and firefighters, said Trump's visit was welcome.

The largest and deadliest fire in state history, the Camp Fire has grown to 149,000 acres since it was started on Nov. 8, according to Cal Fire on Saturday night. It is 55 percent contained but destroyed were 9,891 residences, 367 commercial buildings and 2,528 other buildings.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office has published a list of 630 missing individuals. The San Francisco Chronicle and CNN each reported the number of people missing has topped 1,000.

Authorities hope to reach full containment of the blaze by Nov. 30.

After meeting with first responders in Chico, about 10 miles west of Paradise, Trump boarded Air Force for a trip to South California to visit damage in Malibu. He traveled with Brown, incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Brock Long, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Woolsey Fire was 84 percent contained but 98,362 acres burned and 836 buildings were destroyed from Los Angeles to Ventura counties, according to Cal Fire on Saturday night. Three people have died in the fire.

Afterward, Trump visited nearby Thousand Oaks, where he met met privately with those affected by the mass shooting, which left 12 dead earlier this month. "We just hugged them and we kissed them - and everybody. And it was verywarm," he told reporters before leaving for Washington. "It was tragic, and yet in one way it was a very beautiful moment."

One day after the shooting on Nov. 7 in the Borderline Bar & Grill, the fire caused many to evacuate because of wildfire.

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