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Finland baffled by Trump’s comments about raking leaves to prevent forest fires

Global News logo Global News 2018-11-19 Rebecca Joseph
a man wearing a hat and sunglasses: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the news media in front of a burned tree while surveying homes destroyed by the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Calif., on Nov. 17, 2018. © REUTERS/ Leah Millis U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the news media in front of a burned tree while surveying homes destroyed by the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Calif., on Nov. 17, 2018.

Finland’s president confirmed he spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump about how to manage forest fires, but he doesn’t recall mentioning raking leaves.

Trump credited Finland’s Sauli Niinisto for suggesting clearing forest floors to prevent forest fires while the American president was touring the devastation that’s been left behind in California from some of the biggest forest fires in the state's history.

READ MORE: Donald Trump visits California wildfire zones: ‘We got to take care of the floors of the forest’ 

“He called [Finland] a forest nation and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem," Trump said.

But Niinisto told local newspaper Ilta-Sanomat that he emphasized the use of a surveillance system – and doesn’t remember mentioning raking.

"Finland is a country covered by forests but we also have a good surveillance system and network" in case of wildfires, he said.

He also said he told Trump that "we take care of our forests.”

Trump reiterated claims that raking helps, during an interview on Fox News that aired Sunday.

“They’re raking trees, little trees like this — nut trees, little bushes, that you could see are totally dry, weeds. And they’re raking them – they’re on fire,” Trump said.

“That should have been all raked out, you wouldn’t have the fires.”

Asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace whether climate change was the larger factor in the forest fires, Trump dismissed the idea.

Yana Valachovic, forest adviser with University of California’s Cooperative Extension program told the Washington Post the notion of managing the fuel of the forest fires is correct – but raking the forest floor isn’t a viable solution to the problem.

“Managing that pine litter adjacent to our homes and buildings is super important … But the reality is, to manage every little bit of fuel with a rake is not practical.”

Democrats were quick to point out that managing forest fires was a complex issue — and that raking isn't going to solve it.

“If preventing wildfires were as easy as raking leaves, we would have done that by now, but it is a very complicated issue.” Democrat Ted Lieu told MSNBC.

The president wasn’t the only Finn confused about the sentiment. Many took to social media to poke fun at the notion.

“Busy meeting my raking quota!” joked one, with the hashtag #RakeNews. “Not on my watch!” said another.

Trump and his advisers have also previously blamed Canadian lumber imports as a reason fallen trees haven’t been removed from forests, creating more fuel for the forest fires.

“It’s not a global warming thing, it’s a management situation,” Trump said in August. “And one of the elements that he talked about was the fact that we have fallen trees, and instead of removing those fallen trees, which get to be extremely combustible ... we leave them to burn.”

“Just to conclude, especially when Canada is charging us a lot of money to bring their timber down into our country. So ridiculous.”

READ MORE: Trump links Canadian lumber imports to deadly California wildfires

At least 77 people have been killed by the wildfires that have spread through Northern California, and hundreds of others are missing.

— With files from the Associated Press and Tania Kohut

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