California scrambles for more firefighters amid pandemic

California

FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, file photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire Inmate Firefighting Hand Crew members hike through the charred landscape on their way to work east of Gibraltar Road above Montecito, Calif. California is scrambling to find sufficient wildland firefighters amid a coronavirus outbreak that has depleted the ranks of inmates who usually handle some of the toughest duties. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is scrambling to find sufficient firefighters amid a coronavirus outbreak that has depleted the pool of inmates who usually handle some of the toughest duties.

It’s also derailed a plan to hire 600 new state firefighters and support personnel. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday said the state has enough money to add a scaled-back 172 professional firefighters.

He is using his emergency authority to beef up seasonal fire crews as the state enters another hot, dry summer when fires often rage out of control.

The state has also lost more than half its firefighting crews staffed by inmates.

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