California family frustrated that governor, Harris used fire-damaged property for ‘photo opportunity’
A California family is claiming Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, trespassed on private property during the elected officials’ tour of fire damage in Fresno County on Tuesday.
According to Fox 26 News, Newsom and Harris were photographed while surveying the damage caused by the Creek Fire and talking with first responders.
After the visit, Harris tweeted a photo of herself with Newsom in front of what appeared to be a fireplace surrounded by the remains of a house burnt down in the fire.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the courage of our brave firefighters and those who have come near and far to help those fleeing the destruction,” Harris said in the tweet.
Spent time surveying a burn site with @GavinNewsom in an area that has been devastated by the recent wildfires in California. I’m incredibly grateful for the courage of our brave firefighters and those who have come near and far to help those fleeing the destruction. pic.twitter.com/EHSUPgkOsl
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 15, 2020
Trampas Patten, who said in a Facebook post later Tuesday night that he is the son of the couple who owned the now destroyed home, criticized Newsom and Harris for what he called “a photo opportunity to push their political agenda.”
“Decent human beings that have character and class, wouldn’t air someone else’s misfortune on national television,” Patten said in the post. “For the record, my parents haven’t even been let back in yet themselves, to sort through what is left of their lives, but these two felt the need to go traipsing around my parents property without permission.”
Patten then called on voters to think about the photo “when you go to the polls in a few weeks to vote,” referencing the upcoming November general election.
His sister, Bailee Patten, confirmed in an interview with Fox 26 that her family hasn’t had the chance to visit the damage themselves, as the area the home is located in remains under an evacuation order.
“This isn’t just devastation, this is our lives,” Bailee Patten explained in the interview. “This is where we grew up, these are our memories. And to not have that, to feel so helpless — and I guess that’s what we’ve all been thinking, is that we were so helpless. Because we weren’t there, we haven’t gotten to deal with our loss. Instead, we’re having to watch it play out on social media and news.”
Representatives for Newsom and Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.
According to the California Fire Department, more than 17,400 firefighters continue to fight “26 major and three extended attack wildfires” in the state. The massive fires have led to a reported 25 deaths and nearly 5,400 destroyed structures in California as of Thursday.