By Holly Rosenkrantz CBS News November 20, 2018, 11:14 AM Interior Secretary Zinke blames "environmental radicals" for California fires
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke blamed "environmental radicals" for the deadly wildfires in California, saying after he toured the damage from the Camp Fire that environmentalists stop forest management practices that could have prevented the fires.
"I will lay this on the foot of those environmental radicals that have prevented us from managing the forests for years. And you know what? This is on them," Zinke said on Brietbart News Sunday. But he also said "it's not the time for finger-pointing" on the causes of the fires.
The Camp Fire in Northern California has killed at least 77 people — the deadliest in California history — while the Woolsey Fire in Southern California claimed three lives. The direct cause remains under investigation, but the utility company Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has reported transmission and equipment problems near the suspected starting points of the Camp Fire, CBS San Francisco Bay Area reports.
"We have dead and dying timber. We can manage it using best science, best practices," Zinke said. "But to let this devastation go on year after year after year is unacceptable, it's not going to happen. The president is absolutely engaged."
President Trump has made statements blaming California's forest management practices for the fires, resulting in strong pushback from the California Professional Firefighters organization.
"Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography," CPF president Brian Rice said last week. "Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California."
Zinke's comments come after President Trump toured the fire zones this weekend and said Finland's president told him that country doesn't have many problems with forest fires because it spends "a lot of time on raking." The president said other countries, like Finland, prevent and mitigate fires by better managing the forests. "You've got to take care of the floors. You know, the floors of the forest, very important," he told reporters.
"I was with the president of Finland and he said, 'We have a much different — we're a forest nation.' He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things," he said. "And they don't have any problem."
Finland's President Sauli Niinistö said the topic of raking never came up in their conversation.