President Trump announces visit to California as crews continue battling wildfires

Neighboring Oregon and Washington also have been besieged and air pollution is a major problem across the West.


The White House on Saturday announced President Donald Trump will soon visit California, hours after Trump thanked the firefighters and first responders battling the historic wildfires raging in the western part of the United States.

Trump's public acknowledgment of the crisis comes after weeks of remaining largely silent on the fires that have killed more than two dozen people and burned millions of acres.

Trump will visit McClellan Park, California, on Monday for a briefing with local and federal fire and emergency officials on the state's wildfires, the White House said Saturday. The president was already set to visit Reno, Nevada, on Saturday, where he is likely to see firsthand evidence of the devastating fires, as the National Weather Service in Reno issued a dense smoke advisory through Sunday.

On Friday, Trump posted to Twitter: "THANK YOU to the 28,000+ Firefighters and other First Responders who are battling wildfires across California, Oregon, and Washington."

The president also said he approved funds to "support their brave work" and added, "We are with them all the way!"

The White House said 24 fire management grants have been approved since mid-August for Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Trump also approved an emergency declaration for Oregon on Thursday.

"The President continues to support those who are battling raging wildfires in a locally-executed, state-managed, and federally-supported emergency response," White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement Saturday.

The White House, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have remained in "constant contact" with state and local officials throughout the response to the fires, the statement said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that he spoke with Trump by phone for 30 minutes Thursday, during which he gave the president a status report.

"He reinforced his commitment to our effort and we were grateful," Newsom, a Democrat, said in a news briefing.

A historic figure of more than 3.1 million acres have burned in California, which experts and state leaders contribute to climate change.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Saturday sent his thoughts to those affected in the wildfires and used the opportunity to criticize Trump's approach to the climate crisis.

"The science is clear, and deadly signs like these are unmistakable — climate change poses an imminent, existential threat to our way of life," Biden said in a statement. "President Trump can try to deny that reality, but the facts are undeniable. We absolutely must act now to avoid a future defined by an unending barrage of tragedies like the one American families are enduring across the West today."

Weather helps crews' progress

Smoke from massive wildfires that painted California skies orange have helped crews corral the deadliest blaze of the year, but despite the progress there was concern that the death toll could mount as crews reach devastated areas.

Crews made progress Friday in chopping or bulldozing brush-free lines to control the North Complex fire. In addition, gusting winds that whipped up the flames days earlier eased while smoke blocked out the sun and lowered previously scorching temperatures. Saturday's high temperature was expected to top out at 80 degrees or less.

Nearly 15,000 firefighters were battling 28 major wildfires across California, although 24 were sparked Thursday and quickly contained.

The North Complex remained the deadliest this year, with nine confirmed deaths. Officials had said 10 bodies were found but Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea on Friday lowered the figure. Honea said remains found in a burned storage shed turned out to be from a resin model of a human skeleton that was used by an anthropology student.

A search continued for 19 people who remained unaccounted for.

More victims could be found when search-and-rescue teams join sheriff’s detectives in the rugged mountain area but firefighters said it was too dangerous to immediately begin work in some places.

“Right now, the areas that we need to search are too hot,” Honea said.

This year already has seen shattered California records for the most area burned — more land than the state of Connecticut — and recorded the largest fire of all time in the state. Five of the top 10 biggest blazes in state history are still burning and fire season often gets worse in the fall. Some 4,000 homes and other buildings have been destroyed.

Neighboring Oregon and Washington also have been besieged and air pollution is a major problem across the West. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday “dozens of people” are missing from the large wildfires that have burned across the state.

CNN contributed to this report.