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Trump threatens to withhold emergency aid from fire-hit California

Monday November 4 2019

California wildfires

In this file photo taken on November 1, 2019 a firefighter douses flames from a backfire during the Maria fire in Santa Paula, California on November 1, 2019. US President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal aid from California. PHOTO | JOSH EDELSON | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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Washington,

US President Donald Trump threatened once again Sunday to withhold federal aid from California after its Democratic governor criticised his environmental policies.

Over the past two weeks, fires have ravaged nearly 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) in the sprawling western state, where fighters on Sunday were battling the Maria Fire, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Taking a line of attack he first used last year when fires killed 86 people in northern California, Trump blamed Governor Gavin Newsom, saying he had done "a terrible job of forest management."

"Every year, as the fire's rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor," he said on Twitter.

In an interview with the New York Times this week, Newsom pointed to Trump's sceptical remarks about climate change and his roll-back of environmental protections.

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"We're waging war against the most destructive fires in our state's history, and Trump is conducting a full-on assault against the antidote," Newsom said.

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The president has on several occasions openly questioned the scientific consensus that human activity causes changes in the climate, and notably the drought that has contributed to the California fires.

His administration decided on September 18 to revoke California's authority to set its own standards for automobile pollution.

Newsom criticised the Republican government's ambivalence in dealing with the disasters.

"Last night they approved seven additional emergency grants in record time," Newsom told the Times. "But what's so insidious, and what's so remarkable is that he's doing everything right to respond to these disasters and everything wrong to address what's happening to cause them."

Far from the political struggles, firefighters pressed their fight on Sunday against the Maria Fire, which is 30 percent contained, and the Kincade Fire north of San Francisco, now 74 percent contained.

Other fires, including some that threatened multimillion-dollar homes and iconic institutions in the Los Angeles area, have subsided, and residents who had evacuated are beginning to return home.