Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in an interview published Sunday that although President Donald Trump claimed the European leader told him Finns rarely have forest fires because they “spend a lot of time raking,” he doesn’t recall discussing that with Trump when they met last weekend in Paris.
Niinistö told the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, a CNN affiliate, that the subject of raking was never brought up in his conversations with Trump. He said that they did discuss the California wildfires when they met, and that he told Trump “we take care of our forests.”
The Finnish President told the newspaper that he intended to convey that although Finland is covered by forests, the nation has a good monitoring system which has helped to prevent catastrophic wildfires. He added that he only sees raking in his own yard, and surmised that raking perhaps came to Trump’s mind after he saw firefighters raking some of the burned areas in California.
Still, Trump mentioned raking while surveying the devastation in Northern California on Saturday.
“I was with the President of Finland and he said we have – much different – we are a forest nation. He called it a forest nation,” Trump said. “And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem. So I know everybody’s looking at that to that end.”
Trump also told Fox News’ Chris Wallace during an interview last week that aired on “Fox News Sunday” that he saw firemen raking brush near the wildfires, and that doing so earlier could have prevented the fires.
“I was watching the firemen the other day, and they were raking areas, they were raking areas where the fire was right over there,” Trump said. “And they’re raking … little bushes, that you could see are totally dry, weeds. And they’re raking them – they’re on fire.”
“That should have been all raked out and cleaned out,” Trump added. “You wouldn’t have the fire.”
Some on social media pointed to the difference in Finland and California’s climates as a possible reason for differing approaches to forest management.
Bemused Finns also took to their accounts to mock the suggestion that raking forest floors was a national obligation.
Some posted images of the Rake Group – a real estate concern in Helsinki – for tongue-in-cheek references to the comment.
CNN’s Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed to this story.