Trump leaves Finland bewildered by claiming country stops wildfires by 'raking and cleaning'

Jon Sharman

Donald Trump has blamed a lack of raking and care of forest floors for the wildfires that devastated parts of California, causing confusion and amusement in Finland.

In his latest criticism of what he claimed was poor forest management, Mr Trump said he had spoken to the Finnish president, Sauli Niinisto, about the fires – the worst ever to hit the golden state.

“I was with the president of Finland and he said … we’re a forest nation, he called it a forest nation, and they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. They don’t have any problem, and what it is, it’s a very small problem,” Mr Trump said on Saturday during a visit to Paradise, a Californian town totally destroyed by flames.

“We’ve got to take care of the floors, you know the floors of the forest, very important. You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story.”

Mr Niinisto told the Ilta-Sanomat newspaper over the weekend that he had spoken briefly with Mr Trump about forest management on 11 November, when they both were in Paris for Armistice Day events.

He said the leaders’ conversation had focused on the California wildfires and the surveillance system Finland uses to monitor forests for fires. He said he remembered telling Mr Trump that “we take care of our forests”, but could not recall raking coming up.

The US leader’s comment generated amusement on social media in Finland, which manages its vast forests with scientific seriousness.

Users were quick to post pictures of themselves with rakes in hand, and to create puns based on Mr Trump’s catchphrases – “rake America great again and “#rakenews”.

“Finnish Twitter is intolerable today,” Tero Kuittinen posted on Sunday.

Forests cover more than 70 per cent of Finland’s 338,000sq km.

The Nordic country with a population of 5.5 million is home to some of the world’s biggest paper and pulp companies.

About 1,000 names remain on a list of people unaccounted for more than a week after the Camp fire began in Butte County about 140 miles north of San Francisco, authorities said.

Authorities do not believe all those on the list are missing and the roster dropped by 300 on Sunday as more people were located or got in touch to say they were not missing.

Some 77 people have been killed.

At last count, the Camp Fire had destroyed more than 13,600 homes and other structures, authorities said late on Sunday.

Up to 4in of rain is expected to fall between Tuesday and Friday in the Sierra foothills, said Patrick Burke, of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Centre in College Park, Maryland.

“It’ll bring much needed relief to the firefighters and to the air quality, but there’s a potential for dangerous mudslides wherever vegetation is burned away on slopes and hills,” he said.

Up to 2in of rain is also expected to fall on southern California this week, where the Woolsey Fire claimed at least three lives.

That blaze was 88 per cent contained on Sunday, authorities said, with full containment expected on Thursday.

The precise causes of the both fires were under investigation, but electric utility companies have reported equipment problems in the vicinity of both blazes around the time they erupted.

Scientists say the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires in California and elsewhere across the western US are largely attributable to prolonged drought symptomatic of climate change.

Additional reporting by agencies