L.A. Mayor Says Federal Fire Assistance Is on the Way — Despite Trump's Comments

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

The president had tweeted on Saturday, "There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is confident that federal assistance to aid in the fight against the Woolsey Fire will happen despite a threat by President Donald Trump that it might be curtailed.

“I spoke with the White House to special homeland security adviser Admiral Douglas Fears a little earlier to ensure that federal assistance comes,” Garcetti on Saturday told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview.

Earlier in the day, President Trump blamed the fires on mismanagement by state officials. In a tweet, the president wrote: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Garcetti, who was just to about to board an LAPD helicopter to survey the fire, expressed confidence that the president’s opinion was not reflective of the federal government’s emergency management response team.

“I think the Departmental people are professionals and in our experiences have been good in getting us the reimbursements and the federal assistance. Even if some things get politicized at the very top with snarky comments from the president,” Garcetti told THR.

He added, “I made it clear to the guys on the line, let’s keep things as professional as they can be because we don’t even have forest down here and that is not the issue and the federal government controls the forest in northern California, so let’s try and think about the firefighters who are on the line and the people who have been displaced first and foremost. But I thanked them for their help and I anticipate it will continue.”

Garcetti said that the city of Los Angeles hadn’t lost any structures yet but that the county had lost over 100 structures to the fire and that 250,000 residents had been displaced. He said that CAL Fire would be providing assistance in the ongoing battle but that for now the lion's share of resources are coming from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

“All of our resources arrayed along that ring that we anticipate that between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. the wind will shift back to the east potentially and that could come into the San Fernando Valley West Hills area potentially, which is a heavily populated area, so we are going to make sure that that doesn’t happen," Garcetti said. 

Garcetti noted he did not anticipate the fire to be under control anytime soon. “It’s a devastating combination of the wind, dry weather and the heat right now so we think that it will go through at least late Sunday before we will be able to have some control over this thing and it will take over a week to contain it totally and start to do all the mopping up,” he said.

Meanwhile, the top executive of the union that represents California's firefighters responded at length to the president's criticism on Saturday with a condemnation of Trump's tweet about "poor" forest management. 

"The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines," stated California Professional Firefighters president Brian K. Rice.

"At a time when our every effort should be focused on vanquishing the destructive fires and helping the victims, the president has chosen instead to issue an uninformed political threat aimed squarely at the innocent victims of these cataclysmic fires," he added. "At this moment, thousands of our brother and sister firefighters are putting their lives on the line to protect the lives and property of thousands. Some of them are doing so even as their own homes lay in ruins. In my view, this shameful attack on California is an attack on all our courageous men and women on the front lines."

Fires in Southern California have scorched more than 70,000 acres and destroyed multiple homes and businesses.