When US president Donald Trump visited Paradise, California, he offered some perplexing advice to the tens of thousands of people who have been displaced by the Camp Fire that’s burned over 140,000 acres of forest and thousands of homes.
“You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important,” Trump said, standing next to a confused-looking California governor Jerry Brown and lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom. “You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland and he called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don’t have any problem. And when they do, it’s a very small problem.”
The comments have been mocked by Californians, environmentalists, and Finnish people, who are posting photos of themselves standing in the woods, holding rakes, with the hashtag “haravointi,” which means “raking” in Finnish.
Climate change played a “starring role” in the fire, scientists say, by causing a record low rainfall that turned the area into a tinderbox.
And Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, told a local newspaper that he never discussed “raking leaves” with Trump. “I mentioned him that Finland is a land covered by forests and we also have a good monitoring system and network,” Niinistö said to Ilta-Sanomat, adding that he does recall using the phrase “we take care of our forests.”
Trump “may have confused raking with thinning, in which one third or even half of the trees are cut,” a Finnish horticulturist tells the paper. “It reduces the fire load and increases the vitality of the forest.”