SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — With the official start of wildfire season approaching, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday more than $80 million in funding to hire nearly 1,400 additional state firefighters.
California is coming off a historic 2020 fire season that burned more than two million acres in Northern California — 3,125 square miles — nearly three times the size of Chicago, Manhattan and Los Angeles combined.READ MORE: Windsor Council Demands Resignation Of Mayor Dominic Foppoli Amid Sexual Assault Investigation
Wildfires burned thousands of homes, claimed dozens of lives and charred woodlands, forests and wine country vineyards, leaving an ugly scare visible from space.
A dry winter has now added to the threat in 2021. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, conditions across Northern California range from moderate to extreme drought conditions.
Cal Fire crews were already fighting a wildfire. The Refuge Fire had charred 873 acres and was 80 percent contained in rural Siskiyou County on Tuesday.
“In California, climate change is making the hots hotter and the dries drier, leaving us with world record-breaking temperatures and devastating wildfires threatening our communities,” Newsom said in a prepared statement. “We aren’t just waiting for the next crisis to hit – this funding will support our heroic firefighters to save lives as they work to prevent and tackle destructive wildfires.”READ MORE: 'Enjoy It While You Can' - Bay Area Bubble Tea Shops Prepare For Looming National Shortage Of Boba
In all, Newsom’s January 2021 budget has proposed $1 billion to support wildfire and forest management.
Tuesday’s Emergency Fund authorization included a surge of 1,256 seasonal firefighters for maximum flexibility through June 30, 2021.
The funding will provide fire crew and fire engine staffing, augments eight currently understaffed existing fire crews ahead of the summer and allows the early hiring and training of fire crews for fuels management to provide twelve new Cal Fire crews and six seasonal and six new permanent Conservation Corps crews.
The state will also onboard 24 seasonal firefighters for California National Guard hand crews who support Cal Fire’s fuels management work.MORE NEWS: Sharks Swept By Ducks To End 1-4 Homestand
The additional funding will also provide 119 firefighters to staff Cal Fire helitack crews earlier in the year, to allow them time to train and be operationally ready by May 2021. This includes the orientation and operations of the new S-70i helicopter to operate from four Cal Fire helitack bases.