(The Center Square) – After a record-breaking 4.1 million acres were scorched by wildfires in California last year, the state is bracing for another potentially deadly season due to worsening drought conditions and higher than normal temperatures, Gov. Gavin Newsom says.
“We had world record-breaking high temperatures in our own backyard in California … 130 degrees in our state,” Newsom said Thursday in announcing a new $536 million fire prevention proposal.
After reviewing it, the state legislature is expected to pass the measure.
“This year, we are budgeting more than $1 billion, with more than $500 million in early action spending for fire prevention including fuel breaks, forest health and home hardening to help protect Californians from catastrophic wildfires,” Newsom said.
The majority of the state, 91 percent, is suffering from a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, with consecutive dry months reported since October.
The proposal includes hiring additional fire personnel, buying mechanical equipment, building defensible spaces and developing vegetation-management projects designed to control and prevent fires, Newsom said.
“We can’t sugarcoat the fact that this summer is going to be challenging,” said Wade Crowfoot, California’s Natural Resources Secretary. “We are just getting out of our second consecutive dry winter and what we can expect this summer in wildfire conditions is more of the same from last summer.”
According to CAL FIRE, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the length of the fire season is estimated to increase by 75 days across the Sierras.
Last week, state officials approved allocating more than $80 million in emergency funds to promote 1,399 additional firefighters within CAL FIRE and train fire crews before the peak fire season starts in July.
The legislative proposal builds on $323 million in early action funding for wildfire prevention that was proposed in Newsom’s 2021-2022 budget.
After touring the Shaver South Fuel Break project, Newsom announced he was expanding and refocusing the Forest Management Task Force to deliver on the key commitments in the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan he issued in January, including $1 billion in investments.
The task force will be co-chaired by California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Randy Moore. They will be joined by CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld, Governor’s Office of Planning and Research Director Kate Gordon, CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter, California State Association of Counties President James Gore, Rural County Representatives of California Chair Stacy Corless and Don Hankins of the Inter-Tribal Indigenous Stewardship Project.
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