Finland's president said Sunday he did not tell Donald Trump “raking” forest floors would prevent wildfires — contradicting the U.S leader, whose claim has been roundly mocked in the Northern European country.
At least 77 people have died in the deadliest wildfire in California’s history, and more than 1,000 remain missing.
Visiting the devastation in Paradise last week, Trump told rescue workers that poor forest management was to blame, and that Finland's President Sauli Niinisto told him that “raking” was the key to prevention.
“They spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don't have any problem,” Trump said of the Finns. “And when it is, it's a very small problem. So I know everybody's looking at that to that end.”
However, Niinisto said in an interview that he'd never talked to Trump about raking.
“I mentioned [to] him that Finland is a land covered by forests and we also have a good monitoring system and network," he told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that poor forest management is to blame for the wildfires still burning across the Golden State, ignoring claims that climate change is behind the record-breaking fires.
Trump doubled down on his raking theory in a Fox News interview Sunday.
“I was watching the firemen the other day, and they were raking areas, they were raking areas where the fire was right over there," Trump said. "And they are raking ... little bushes, that you could see are totally dry, weeds. And they're raking them — they're on fire.”
“That should have been all raked out and cleaned out,” Trump added. "You wouldn't have the fire.”
In Finland, where the government employs a sophisticated video surveillance system to closely track the country’s forests, people were baffled by Trump’s comments, which were derided on social media.
Cover image: Donald Trump visits the charred wreckage of Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park in Paradise, California, U.S., November 17, 2018. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)