More state funds to battle wildfire helps bolster local agencies
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — California is still grappling with the devastation from last year’s record setting wildfire year.
Over 4 million acres were burned, the most recorded in a year in the state’s history. Thirty-three people lost their lives during the historic blazes.
With another dry winter — about half the normal snowpack — California Gov. Gavin Newsom jump started wildfire preparedness ahead of wildfire season.
On April 14, using Emergency Fund authorization, Newsom signed a $536 million wildfire package for fire resilience efforts including fuel breaks, forest health projects and home hardening across the state.
“This is a down payment, not the totality of our efforts,” Newsom said during Tuesday’s live announcement in Butte County.
This package is part of the $1 billion investment towards forest health and community fire resilience published in the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan.
The bill will fund projects to restore the ecological health of forests and watersheds, fuel breaks around vulnerable communities, statewide fire prevention grants targeting projects to advance community hardening, and improvements to defensible space to mitigate wildfire damage.
“California is taking bold, early action to protect our high-risk communities from the upcoming wildfire season before it starts,” Newsom said. “This crucial funding will go towards efforts including fuel breaks, forest health projects and home hardening.”
Locally, the authorization allowed Cal Fire, Amador-El Dorado Unit, to work in cooperation with the California Conservation Corp to fund an additional CCC crew for a total of two permanent fire crews out of Meyers.
“Expanding the partnership is a huge benefit to both the Tahoe community and to our CCC Corpsmembers,” said CCC Regional Deputy Director Larry Notheis in an email. “The additional Corpsmembers means more boots on the ground for initial attack on wildfire in the area, more chainsaws to reduce brush that fuels wildfires, and more young adults developed into our wildland firefighters of the future.”
In addition to funding an additional CCC crew, AEU will also receive an additional 15 firefighter positions.
These 15 new firefighters will help with prevention and suppression for the entire unit which includes eight fire stations with one located in South Lake Tahoe.
The Amador-El Dorado Unit hired 39 firefighters on Monday, April 12, and they are anticipating hiring 40 more next Monday, April 19.
This funding has also allowed Cal Fire to hire seasonal fire personnel earlier than usual to help with prescribed burning operations, defensible space inspections and increased training prior to peak season.
“We are hiring firefighters a little sooner to train and help with the preventative side of things before it gets too hot and dry,” said Diana Swart, public information officer for Cal Fire Amador-El Dorado Unit. “It helps all the way around.”
This bill comes after Newsom’s authorization of $80.74 million in emergency funds for 1,399 additional firefighters to boost fuels management and wildfire response efforts in late March.
“This will be an active wildfire season,” Newsom said. “We don’t anticipate it, we know it based on experiences to date.”
For more information on the bill, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
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