Many still unaccounted for in California fires

California's Camp Fire destroyed more than 11,700 homes, torched an area the size of Chicago and left nearly 1,000 people unaccounted for. CNN's Nick Watt reports.

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 10:32 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 10:35 AM

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says it's not the time for finger-pointing over the destruction of the deadly California wildfires -- yet he's openly blaming "radical environmentalists" for a lack of forest management that he says are spreading the infernos.

"I will lay this on the foot of the environmental radicals that have prevented us from managing the forests for years, and you know what, this is on them," Zinke said in an interview with Breitbart News on Sunday.

At one point, Zinke said it it's "not time for finger-pointing" -- right before he pointed fingers at "radical environmentalists."

"This is where America stands. It's not time for finger-pointing. We know the problem: it's been years of neglect, and in many cases, it's been these radical environmentalists that want nature to take its course," Zinke said. "We have dead and dying timber. We can manage it using best science, best practices. But to let this devastation go on year after year after year is unacceptable."

The Interior Secretary and former Montana congressman has made similar comments over the last week with regard to the wildfires, which have killed scores of people. One notable potential factor in the devastation that he hasn't mentioned is climate change.

Zinke's comments come after President Donald Trump surveyed the devastation in Northern California on Saturday and suggested raking the forest floors to prevent future wildfires, claiming the President of Finland suggested this method to him. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he doesn't recall discussing this tactic with Trump.

After briefing the President on the status of the fires, Zinke said Trump was "engaged."

"We need to actively manage our forests, and the president is absolutely right," Zinke said. "This is as much about mismanagement over time -- it wasn't just the last administration. This has been going on for years."

Chad Hanson, a research ecologist with the John Muir Project and a national director of the Sierra Club, has pushed back against the Trump administration's reasoning for the devastation.

"It is deeply troubling that Trump and his administration would support logging as a way to curb fires when studies have shown it's ineffective," Hanson wrote in a CNN op-ed over the weekend. "In the most comprehensive scientific analysis conducted on the issue of forest management and fire intensity -- which looked at more than 1,500 fires on tens of millions of acres across the Western United States over three decades -- we found that forests with the fewest environmental protections and the most logging actually tend to burn much more intensely, not less."

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