At a telephone press conference with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Tuesday, they addressed the aftermath of the devastating California wildfires, and the need for true forest management.

Zinke began by praising the work of firefighters who put their lives on the line as the fires raced through towns like Paradise, California.

“The devastation and the speed at which that fire came through, it was literally like a flamethrower of ambers,” said Zinke, the former Montana Congressman. “In one case firefighters had to defend the space at a commercial building and there were civilians inside the building and they took a stand to prevent any more loss of human lives, as well as the Sheriff’s department getting people out of danger, too.”

When asked by a reporter from Politico about his previous comments blaming ‘radical environmental groups’ for the California wildfires, Zinke answered directly.

“Everyone should recognize that the density of dead and dying trees is higher, the density of living trees is higher,” he said. “There are active forest management principles that we should use to mitigate these devastating wildfires. But, when lawsuit after lawsuit by, yes, the radical environmental groups who would rather burn down the entire forest than cut a single tree.”

Zinke said a few minutes on an internet search will reveal which groups are responsible for the majority of the lawsuits.

“It’s easy to find who is suing and who promulgates these destructive policies,” he said. “So, yes, I do want to lay this at their feet, but I don’t want to finger point. Now, there are other variables. The seasons are getting longer, the temperatures are getting hotter, we’ve had a chronic drought condition in California. The dead and dying trees from beetle kill, the density of trees and the amount of underbrush are factors, but those can be mitigated if we work together.”

The latest figures have the Camp fire in California responsible for 79 deaths and nearly 700 still missing.

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