Harris was joined by California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and met with emergency officials. It was the senator’s first trip to her home state since early March, according to campaign aides, before the coronavirus pandemic ended any in-person campaigning and states put restrictions in place for stop the spread of the virus.
The wildfires burning in the western part of the United States have killed at least 35 people, displaced thousands and burned millions of acres.
Standing in front of a burnt-out elementary school playground, Harris said, “Sadly, these wildfires and the devastation they cause are entirely predictable. ”
Harris described the desolate residential areas where the fires swept through. “Everything has disappeared except the fireplace. … These chimneys remind me of gravestones, ”said Harris.
Harris noted that California, like other states, has experienced extreme weather conditions. “And it behooves us, in terms of the leadership of… our nation, to take the extreme changes in our climate seriously and do what we can to mitigate the damage. ”
Harris praised the firefighters who are working tirelessly to put out the fires.
Harris’ visit comes a day after President Donald Trump visited California and received a briefing on the wildfires at McClellan Park. Trump argued baselessly on Monday that climate change does not play a role in catastrophic wildfires, after an official briefing asked him to have the president listen to science.
Trump was also directly confronted by Newsom, who has been adamant about the role of climate change in the wildfires. At the event, Newsom told the President bluntly: “Climate change is real”.
Trump blamed the fires on “forest management,” despite scientists and local officials attributing the intensity of this season’s fires to the climate crisis. Trump and senior administration officials have routinely denied the existence of human-caused climate change, and his administration has overturned federal regulations put in place to limit global warming.
Also on Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called Trump a “climate arsonist” and denounced Trump’s refusal to recognize the scientific reality of the climate crisis as “unacceptable”. He stressed the importance for America of electing a president who “respects science” and who understands the urgency of addressing the climate crisis.
Biden described in his speech his ambitious climate plan, which involves spending $ 2 trillion over four years on clean energy projects and ending carbon emissions from power plants by 2035.
CNN’s MJ Lee, Jasmine Wright and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.