Harris was joined by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and met with emergency officials. This was the senator’s first trip back to her home state since early March, campaign aides say, before the coronavirus pandemic halted all in-person campaigning and states put restrictions in place to stop the spread of the virus.
The wildfires burning in the western part of the United States have killed at least 35 people, displaced thousands and burned millions of acres.
Standing in front of a burnt playground at an elementary school, Harris said, “Sadly, these wildfires and the devastation they cause are utterly predictable.”
Harris described the desolate residential areas where the fires swept through. “Everything is gone except the chimne. … Those chimneys remind me of tombstones,” Harris said.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Harris said. “Ideology should not kick in. It’s just a fact. This is just a fact,” Harris said, motioning toward the burnt playground behind her.
“And we have to do better as a country,” the senator said.
Harris noted that California, like other states, has experienced extreme weather conditions. “And it is incumbent on us, in terms of the leadership of … our nation, to take seriously the extreme changes in our climate, and to do what we can to mitigate against the damage.”
Harris praised the firefighters working tirelessly to put out the fires.
Harris’ visit comes a day after President Donald Trump traveled to California and received a briefing on the wildfires in McClellan Park. Trump on Monday baselessly asserted that climate change is not playing a role in the catastrophic wildfires, as an official briefing him pleaded for the President to listen to the science.
Trump was also directly confronted by Newsom, who has been adamant about climate change’s role in the wildfires. At the event, Newsom bluntly told the President: “Climate change is real.”
Trump has blamed the fires on “forest management,” despite scientists and local officials attributing the intensity of this season’s fires to the climate crisis. Trump and top administration officials have regularly denied the existence of human-caused climate change, and his administration has rolled back federal regulations that were put in place to limit global warming.
Also on Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called Trump a “climate arsonist” and blasted Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the scientific reality of the climate crisis as “unconscionable.” He stressed the importance of America electing a president who “respects science” and who understands the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
Biden outlined in his speech his ambitious climate plan, which involves spending $2 trillion over four years on clean energy projects and ending carbon emissions from power plants by 2035.