U.S. President Joe Biden Friday met virtually with governors from seven Western U.S. states to discuss how the federal government can help fight the wildfires that are raging across that region.
Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, spoke via video conference with the governors of California, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
The meeting followed a similar one Biden hosted exactly a month ago, and the president noted that since then, the number of large, uncontained wildfires burning in the western U.S. has doubled to 66. Those fires have destroyed more than 3.4 million acres of land.
In Oregon alone, Biden noted the “Bootleg Fire” has destroyed more than 400 structures, including more than 160 homes.
The president asked the governors what the federal government can do immediately to help address the problem, including fighting the fires and fire prevention.
Montana Republican Governor Greg Gianforte said in his state this year so far, there have been 1,600 fires which have burned 220,000 acres. He said, along with obvious resources such as manpower and equipment, the governor asked for better cooperation between federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in taking action to fight fires as they start.
California’s Gavin Newsom said he agreed, noting at times, federal agencies take a “wait and see attitude” in attacking fires, which all too often leads fires to grow out of control. He called for a change in that culture, especially in California, where 57 percent of the forests are under federal management.
Newsom, along with Washington state Governor Jay Inslee also urged Biden to more aggressively take steps to address climate change. The president said climate change is helping drive fire conditions and the factor cannot be ignored.
Much of the region continues to see record heat and drought conditions in recent months.