President Trump arrived Saturday in Northern California to see the devastation from the California wildfires that have left at least 71 dead and more than 1,000 people missing -- saying it’s time “to pull together for the people of California.”
Trump was traveling with Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., and Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and will meet with residents, firefighters, first responders and FEMA officials.
"The first responders, they have been incredible," he told reporters as he departed Washington. "The firefighters have been unbelievably brave."
Trump will also meet with Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, and was expected to return in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Trump sparked controversy when he blamed the wildfires on poor forest management, and threatened to withhold federal payments to the state.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he tweeted. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Trump praised the firefighters but said the “big problem we have is management.” He said that responders were raking bushes that were totally dry and on fire: “That should have been all raked out, you wouldn’t have the fires.”
“You need forest management, it has to be, I’m not saying that in a negative way or positive way, I’m just saying the facts,” he said.
On Saturday, he said that "we will be talking about forest management" during the trip.
“But the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there’s no question about it. It should have been done many years ago,” he said, before saying that "everybody's on the right side."
"It's a big issue, very expensive issue but very inexpensive when you compare it to even one of these horrible fires, and we'll save a lot of lives in addition to a lot of money," he said.
The blaze that began on Nov. 8 all but razed the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow. It destroyed more than 9,800 homes and, at its height, displaced 52,000 people. The cause of the fire was not immediately known. The blaze was said to be 50 percent contained.
Fox News’ Kathleen Joyce and The Associated Press contributed to this report.