MCCLELLAN PARK | “It will eventually cool down”: President Donald Trump on Monday swept aside concerns about global warming during a visit to California, plagued, like the entire west coast of the United States, to Deadly fires of historic proportions, aggravated by chronic drought.
The dozens of blazes that have devastated the coast for days have already killed at least 35 people since the start of the summer, including 27 this week alone in the three states of Washington, Oregon and California.
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“It will eventually cool,” assured the US president during an exchange with Wade Crowfoot, a local official with the California Natural Resources Protection Agency.
“I don’t think science really knows,” added the Republican candidate, who regularly makes climate skepticism.
“The observed evidence speaks for itself: climate change is real and it worsens” the fires, insisted for its part Gavin Newsom, Democratic governor of California.
The US president made a brief trip to Sacramento, the state capital, on Monday to learn about the situation before leaving to campaign in Arizona.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden at the same time lashed out against his rival, blaming him for denying the reality of climate change.
“If we give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, how could anyone be surprised that America is set on fire even more?” said the former vice president from the state of Delaware where he lives.
“We have a choice, we can commit to moving forward together, because we know that climate change is an existential challenge that will determine the future of our country” or “we can choose Donald Trump’s path: ignore the facts, to deny the reality, which amounts to giving up completely, ”he said.
For Donald Trump, the cause of the fires is mainly linked to an alleged poor “forest management” in these states, controlled by his Democratic opponents.
According to the scientific consensus, the exceptional scale of these forest fires is however well linked to climate change, which aggravates chronic drought and causes extreme weather conditions.
In California, the toll of the week rose to 16 victims, including 14 in Butte County alone, still traumatized by the memory of the fires of November 2018 that had reduced the town of Paradise to ashes.
Eight people had already been killed in the fires in August in the state.
The governor of Washington state, where a baby was burned in flames last week, refuted Mr. Trump’s “false” claims in an open letter. “Your refusal to respond to climate change – and the steps you have taken to allow even more carbon pollution – will accelerate devastating fires like the ones you see today,” Democrat Jay Inslee insisted.
The acrid fumes given off by the flames affect huge areas. The cities of Portland, Seattle and San Francisco were among the most polluted in the world on Monday, according to the IQAir ranking.
Ten deaths have been recorded in Oregon.
In Mehama, east of the state capital, Salem, police checkpoints limited access to the towns of Mill City and Lyon, which were evacuated in the face of the advancing Beachie Creek fire. Long lines of cars waited in the thick fog, with many farmers eager to return to feed their animals.
“We returned to Mill City this morning, but the police had advised us not to do so, because it is dangerous,” Elaina Early, a resident of this small town crossed by flames, told AFP. “The house is standing, but we are leaving now, because the conditions are really not good.”
Over 400,000 acres have gone to ash in Oregon, double what normally burns there each year, Governor Kate Brown said on CBS Sunday. About 500,000 residents are subject to varying degrees of evacuation order, and 40,000 people have effectively left their homes.
“This must make us all aware that we must do everything in our power to fight climate change,” she said.
The fires have already consumed more than two million hectares on the west coast, while the fire season does not theoretically end until November.