80.74 million in US emergency funds to respond more quickly to new fire risks

SACRAMENTO – In the wake of last year’s record-breaking fire season, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday, 30… March, urgent action to help firefighters as California faces a new challenge this year.

Governor Newsom, using emergency fund authority, approved $80.74 million for the emergency fund. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is requesting an additional $1,399 for 1,399 additional firefighters to handle more fuel and suppress wildfires. The governor’s January 2021 budget proposes giving the state $1 billion. The project has a budget of $1.5 million to support firefighting and forest management.

California is getting hotter and drier due to climate change, leading to record temperatures and devastating wildfires that threaten our communities, Governor Newsom said. We’re not just waiting for the next crisis – this funding will help our heroic firefighters save lives as they work to prevent and fight devastating wildfires.

Due to the ongoing drought across much of the state, low reservoir storage capacity and below average snowfall, California is expecting another year of drought. Meanwhile, scattered light rainfall has contributed to the new growth of annual grasses that will fuel forest fires.

This emergency fund authorization provides for an increase of 1,256 seasonal firefighters to allow for maximum flexibility through the 30th month. June. These funds will allow firefighting units and fire trucks to be staffed, eight existing firefighting units that are currently understaffed for the summer to be replenished, and firefighters to be pre-recruited and trained for twelve new CAL FIRE units, six seasonal units, and six new permanent Conservation Corps units.

In addition, the state will host 24 seasonal firefighters from the California National Guard to assist CAL FIRE with fuel management.

The funding will also add 119 firefighters to the CAL FIRE Helitack team early this year, giving them time to prepare and be deployable by May 2021.

This includes familiarisation with the new S-70i helicopter and its deployment from four CAL FIRE helicopter bases. Enhanced technology to support warehouse operations related to incidents, including website traffic management, will increase the transparency and accuracy of information to the public.

The Governor’s January 2021 budget proposes $1 billion to support California’s Wildfire Management and Recovery Action Plan, which outlines a strategy to increase the pace and scale of forest and wildlife management to meet the state’s goal of completing 500,000 acres of projects per year by 2025 and expanding the use of prescribed fire. The Plan aims to achieve these objectives primarily through regional strategies tailored to the environmental conditions, risks and priorities of each area.

The plan also focuses on fire suppression around vulnerable communities, expansion of home reinforcement, defensible space, and preparedness planning to create fire-resistant communities and maintain the economic viability of rural forest lands.

Building on a significant investment in the state’s firefighting capacity, the governor is also proposing $143 million from the general fund to support 30 new fire departments. This amount also includes $48 million for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The United States has allocated $1.5 million to continue the phased deployment of S-70i helicopters and wide-body tankers.

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