Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke about the largest wildfire and emergency investment in state history in Sacramento County on Monday. His proposed $2 billion investment, up from its original $1 billion, was submitted to the state legislature last week.
“None of us are naive about the challenges that this state faces,” Newsom said, adding, “The hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting a lot drier.”
The increased budget will allow an expansion of the state’s airborne firefighting fleet and 1,400 new firefighters.
Gov. Newsom highlighted the urgency of investing in wildfire preparation by pointing to record drought conditions in California and the surrounding western United States.
Last year, a devastating series of wildfires burned more than 4 million acres across the state, a new record. At one point, 367 active fires across the state and 23 major wildfires burned simultaneously. Newsom declared a statewide emergency to ensure the availability of vital resources to firefighting efforts.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) estimates the fire season has increased by 75 days, starting earlier and ending later each year.
As UCLA climate scientist Glen MacDonald told The Guardian, “your house doesn’t have to be next to the forest or next to the chaparral – these fires will travel through neighborhoods,” he added. “We have to accept that we are going to have fires. Even solving climate change – which we have to do – isn’t going to take fire out of the California landscape.”
The $2 billion initiative is on top of the $536 million the governor already approved to hire additional firefighters and support fire mitigation efforts.
According to a statement from the governor’s office, investing now will allow the state to “support wildfire suppression, improve forest health and build resilience in communities to help protect residents and property from catastrophic wildfires.”