Mr. Trump, who had come under intense criticism for barely addressing the crisis before, interrupted a western campaign swing to make a two-hour visit to an airport in McClellan Park outside Sacramento, where Air Force One descended through a smoky haze. Not far away, one of the biggest fires, now largely contained, recently burned more than 363,000 acres.
As soon as the president disembarked from the plane at Sacramento McClellan Airport, where the stench of smoke filled the air, he did not wait for his scheduled briefing to tell reporters that the cause of the conflagration was poor forest management, not climate change.
“When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick,” Mr. Trump said. “And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires.”
At his subsequent briefing, however, Gov. Gavin Newsom and his top environmental adviser pushed the president to acknowledge the role of climate change. Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, made a point of doing so exceedingly politely, reaffirming his working relationship with the president, thanking him for federal help and agreeing that forest management needed to be improved.
But Mr. Newsom noted that only 3 percent of land in California is under state control while 57 percent is federal forest land, meaning under the president’s management as governed by federal law.
“As you suggest, the working relationship I value,” Mr. Newsom said. But he said climate change clearly was a factor. “Something’s happening to the plumbing of the world, and we come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this.”