Newsom Discusses Fire Season Amidst COVID-19

From a fire station in El Dorado County, Governor Gavin Newsom discussed the upcoming fire season during his daily coronavirus press conference.

“Just this last week, 246 wildfires have occurred here in the state of California…We ran some numbers, from January to May 10th last year, we had 675 wildfires. From January to May 10th this year, we’ve had 1,130 wildfires.” Newsom said.

Earlier this week Newsom said the state has a multi-billion dollar budget deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic. But, in the revised budget coming out Thursday, Newsom says it is necessary to dedicate more resources to fire safety and disaster preparedness.

The resources will include a new Wildfire Safety Division at the Public Utilities Commission to oversee investor-owned utilities like PG&E, funding for Cal Fire to support surge staffing, early warning systems for earthquakes and more.

According to Newsom, Cal Fire will have 26 new engines, including 4 incident command units by July 1st. The state has already received a black hawk helicopter to fight fires by air and expects to receive more in the coming months.

Newsome believes, “600 additional personnel…are needed to protect people from wildfires to the extent we can protect you and help mitigate the ferocity of these fires.”

Cal Fire Chief, Thom Porter, said the state needs to focus on response, prevention and preparedness. Porter said responding to fires is a team sport, “No one agency in California can do that mission alone” explaining that the state needs everyone: federal partners, BLM, BIA, fish and wildlife, and more to help contain fires.

“Initial attack is the key component to keeping fires small and keeping firefighters healthy” Porter continued, every person in California, “can protect lives and property.”

In the last 24 hours, there have been 1,759 positive cases out of the 32,222 people tested. In total, California has tested 1,065,000 people. Additionally, ICU cases went down 0.3% and there was a 0.5% increase in hospitalizations yesterday. Sadly, 87 lives were lost due to COVID-19.

Newsom emphasized, “People are still dying from this virus. People are still transmitting this virus. People must continue to take this seriously. This virus has not disappeared, it has not gone away and as we enter into fire season we have to also be cognizant that as we increase our ranks and personnel that we keep our first responders healthy as a top priority so that they can keep us safe.”




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