FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. - A family in California says Sen. Kamala Harris and Gov. Gavin Newsom trespassed on their fire-ravaged property for a photo opportunity.
The California lawmakers visited Fresno County Tuesday to survey the damage of the flames engulfing much of the West Coast, and received a briefing from Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service officials.
They stopped by Pine Ridge Elementary in Auberry, Calif., before walking across the street to observe a residence burnt to the ground.
"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,” the Democratic vice presidential nominee said Tuesday.
In a Facebook post with over 1,000 shares, Trampas Patten says he is the son of the homeowners whose property was used in Harris’ photo. He said his family is frustrated that lawmakers can use his family’s loss for a photo op before the family itself has been allowed back on the property.
“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,” Patten wrote. “Decent human beings that have character and class, wouldn’t air someone else’s misfortune on national television!
“For the record, my parents haven’t even been let back in yet themselves, to sort through what is left of their lives, but these two felt the need to go traipsing around my parents property without permission,” he continued. “I guess those property taxes my parents pay allow politicians to do this! Private property doesn’t exist in California anymore!”
His sister, Bailee Patten, told Fox 26 seeing the pile of rubble that was once their home for the first time on social media was a major blow.
“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 home is still in an area under an evacuation order so owners have not been allowed to check on their property.
“This isn't just devastation, this is our lives. This is where we grew up, these are our memories. And to not have that -- to feel so helpless -- and I guess that's what we've all been thinking, is that we were so helpless,” Patten continued. “ Because we weren't there, we haven't gotten to deal with our loss. Instead, we're having to watch it play out on social media and news."
Harris told reporters as they filmed her around the property: "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 said.
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Patten wrote on Facebook that she feels Newsom took her family’s loss to “parade it all over social media and news networks to push your agenda.”
“That agenda can wait,” she said, calling on the governor to care for the families suffering such loss.
During the visit, Newsom and Harris pointed to climate change as they spoke about the wildfires.
"It is incumbent on us, in terms of the leadership of our nation, to take seriously the extreme changes in our climate," Harris said.
US Democratic vice presidential nominee and Senator from California, Kamala Harris and California Governor Gavin Newsom visit the scene of fire-ravaged property from the Creek Fire on September 15, 2020. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Imag
“Climate change is real. If you don't believe in science, come to California and observe it with your own eyes. You cannot be in denial about this reality,” Newsom said.
"Do you want this kind of leadership, using you and your loss for political gain?!" Trampas Patten asked in his post.
When asked for comment, a Harris spokesperson told Fox 26, “I'm not going to have anything about that.”