Kamala Harris, Gov Gavin Newsom accused of trespassing on property gutted in California wildfires for photo-op
An individual, who identified himself as the son of the owner of the destroyed house, accused the two Democratic politicians of using his family’s tragedy for their political gain
The devastation caused by the raging wildfire in California saw a political controversy snowballing as a local family in Auberry, Fresno County, accused Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Governor Gavin Newsom of trespassing on their ruined property for a photo-op. The incident happened when the duo visited the county on Tuesday, September 14, to take a look at areas that suffered the biggest damage during the Creek Fire, as several other wildfires continued to burn places across the West Coast.
The disaster has taken a dangerous turn as over 17,400 firefighters were battling the rage on the frontlines of 26 major and three extended attack wildfires in the Golden State. Since the beginning of this year, there have been more than 7,000 wildfires that have destroyed 3.4 million acres or three percent of California’s total area. Since the fire activity was elevated last month, more than 20 fatalities and destruction of more than 5,000 structures.
Children of owner of house upset to see Harris, Newsom
The 56-year-old Harris, who is a senator from the state, and Newsom were briefed by officials from Cal Fire and the US Forest Service about the fire and the challenges that it posed. The two leaders stopped by Pine Ridge Elementary in Auberry before they went to see a residence that had been completely gutted.
“The fire just swept through. So everything is gone except the chimney. Those chimneys, they remind me - when you look at a neighborhood that's been wiped out, those chimneys remind me of tombstones,” Harris, who will be Joe Biden’s running mate in the November 3 election, told the press.
An individual named Trampas Patten, who identified himself as the son of the owner of the destroyed house, was not happy and he accused the two Democratic politicians of using his family’s tragedy for their political gain. In a Facebook post that he made the same day featuring a picture of Harris and Newsom standing near the ruins, he said: “What has me really frustrated right now is the fact that these two politicians used my parents loss for a photo opportunity to push their political agenda! Political party wouldn’t have made a difference in this moment.
Decent human beings that have character and class, wouldn’t air someone else’s misfortune on national television! Think about this when you go to the polls in a few weeks to vote. Look at this picture closely, imagine it is what is left of your hard work, hopes, dreams, place of sanctuary. Do you want this kind of leadership, using you and your loss for political gain?!”
Trampas, however, faced a backlash for his post with people accusing him of being a supporter of the Republican Party. California is a safe Democratic state where no GOP presidential candidate has won after 1988.
Trampas’s sister Bailee Patten seconded the former. She told Fox 26 that seeing the remains of what was their home once on social media for the first time did not make a happy experience. “When we saw those photos, it was -- there aren't words, because it's like, we haven't even seen our house. We haven't seen our property. There is no house, we haven't even seen our property,” she said. The destroyed property is still in an area that is under evacuation order and hence the owners have not been given permission to check on their property.
She also came up with a Facebook post like her brother in which she said, along with attaching some pictures of Harris and Newsom, addressing the governor: “Dear Governor Newsom you don’t know me but I’m one of your CA citizens. That truck you are standing by is my dads work truck. He has had that thing for as long as I can remember. That land with all the rubble your standing next too, that’s my house I grew up in. You never got my parents permission to go on our property, nor did you ask if we needed help. What you did do is take my families loss and parade it all over social media and news networks to push your agenda.”
Trampas also condemned the duo saying his family never gave them permission “to go traipsing around” the property. The photo he used in his post which has been shared more than 2,000 times till now, was also shared by Harris and retweeted by Newsom.
Spent time surveying a burn site with @GavinNewsom in an area that has been devastated by the recent wildfires in California. I’m incredibly grateful for the courage of our brave firefighters and those who have come near and far to help those fleeing the destruction. pic.twitter.com/EHSUPgkOsl— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) September 15, 2020
In his post, Newsom, 52, posted another picture of him with Harris and captioned it: “Climate change is real”.
The two leaders spoke on the issue of climate change during their visit to the gutted properties. Calling the climate a “public health crisis,” Harris said: “Sadly, these wildfires and the devastation they cause are utterly predictable. It is incumbent on us, in terms of the leadership of our nation, to take seriously the extreme changes in our climate.”
“These are the stories behind these fires. The people who are victimized by these, they could care less - and their children could care less - who they voted for in the last election,” she added. Newsom said on the other hand: “The hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting dryer. Climate change is real. If you don’t believe in science, come to California and observe with your own eyes and not be in denial about this reality.” He also praised Harris over her efforts to “decarbonize the economy.” The VP candidate sought more investment in natural energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines.
Pattens are registered Republican members
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office told the local GV Wire that the exact letter of the law is not clear as to whether Harris and Newsom needed an approval to visit the gutted properties. It also said that Trampas and his mother Bonnie Patten are registered Republicans.
The outlet tried to get reactions from both the Biden/Harris campaign and Newsom’s office but failed to get any.