Trump: Climate change 'maybe contributes a little bit' to California fires

President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE said Friday it was possible that wildfires ravaging the state of California in recent days have been exacerbated at least in part by climate change.

In an interview set to air in full  on "Fox News Sunday," Trump told Chris Wallace that "maybe" climate change contributes "a little bit" to the fires that have so far destroyed thousands of homes in the state and killed at least 66 people.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Maybe [climate change] contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management," Trump told Wallace, appearing to double down on his argument that mismanagement of California's forests was the main contributing factor to the speed and ferocity of the fires.

"When I was in a certain state, I won’t say which, the governor said, 'You know, we’ve tested it. We clean out areas and we actually set the fire just to see, we lose almost nothing, we can put it out right away,' " he added. "You need forest management. It has to be. I’m not saying that in a negative way, a positive — I’m just saying the facts. And I’ve really learned a lot."

Trump was criticized by fire department groups for a tweet last week that appeared to blame the severity of the wildfires' damage on California's local officials even as the wildfires still threatened thousands of structures.

"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests," Trump wrote on Twitter, adding: "Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"

“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong," responded California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice in a statement.

"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," he added.

Last month, the president minimized the effects of climate change when asked about the damage caused by recent hurricanes across the eastern U.S.

“Weather has been a factor and yet, they say worst hurricanes were 50 years ago,” he said last month.