US president Donald Trump extolled Finnish forestry management on a visit to northern California on Saturday where more than 70 people have died in the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.
”You look at other countries where they do things differently, and it’s a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland and he said, 'we have a forest nation'. They spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and they don’t have any problems,” Trump told reporters in the devastated town of Paradise.
Critics were quick to point out that Finland and California have very different climates.
Finnish president Sauli Niinistö told Yle that he believed Trump was referring to their encounter in Paris last weekend marking the WWI armistice centenary.
”I did indeed meet president Trump and we had a conversation about forest fire prevention in Finland,” he explained.
The Finnish president's office on Sunday said via email that raking did not enter the discussion between Trump and Niinistö in the French capital last week.
Niinistö had said, "we take care of our forests" while talking about Finnish forestry management and the country's forest fire monitoring system with president Trump.
Niinistö brought up the topic of forest management while offering his condolences to the US president for the devastation caused by California's wildfires, according to the Finnish president's office. The issue of forest fires was also highlighted as forest fire prevention is an aspect of Finland's Arctic programme and Finland currently chairs the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum for Arctic issues.
Last July, Niinistö and Trump held bilateral talks during the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki.
Trump has said state forest mismanagement is to blame for California's wildfires.
Authorities in California are working to locate more than one thousand missing people.
4:20pm: Edited to add comments from president Sauli Niinistö's office.