FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – On Thursday Gov. Gavin Newsom toured a portion of the Creek Fire burn scar near Shaver Lake. He announced a $536 million funding plan for wildfire prevention and response. For fire crews, it’s a huge boost for what could be another massive wildfire year.
The announcement is part of the $1 billion set aside in the 2021 state budget for wildfire fighting prevention efforts.
“We’re making an investment in fire protection, fire prevention, fire suppression, that is commensurate with the problem,” said Chief Thom Porter, statewide director of CAL Fire.
Newsom last week announced an additional $80 million in emergency funds to hire about 1400 more CAL Fire firefighters to get ready for this season. Newsom says lawmakers are ready to approve the funds in the state’s budget for wildfires in the near future.
“We have their commitment,” Newsom said. “And we have the confidence in the vote being secured as early as Monday and my signature on Tuesday that will be drawing down $536 million and get these projects moving and start to scale so were prepared for this upcoming wildfire season.”
Those funds will be used for home hardening against fires, forest health projects, fire fuel management, and workforce training.
“We got to do more in terms of forest management, got to do more in terms of vegetation management,” Newsom said.
Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig said he was grateful for the state’s efforts but wants to see more variety in forest management.
“I would have liked to have heard more about the timber industry and actually reviving some of our mills and also biomass plants,” Magsig said.
Newsom also spoke on climate change being a big factor in the elevated risk.
“Something is happening as it relates to the issue of climate that’s exacerbating conditions and making the challenge of wildfire suppression and prevention that much more ominous,” he said. “If you don’t believe in climate change, you don’t believe in science, you believe your own damn eyes.”
The Creek Fire burned about 380,000 acres in the foothills and mountains of Fresno and Madera Counties.
Newsom visited Fresno County and saw some of the areas devastated by the Creek Fire in September with Vice President Kamala Harris. He said he wanted to come back to Fresno County to see the progress being made and the management and reforestation efforts taking place.
“The thing that really lit my heart up was seeing a young girl outside playing just right up the road here and I can imagine what she went through last September and October wondering if her home was safe and everything her family went through so I wanted to just connect on that level and that’s why I specifically wanted to come back here near Shaver Lake and back to Fresno County,” Newsom said.
Newsom’s visit and announcement Thursday comes as the state prepares for another challenging wildfire season this year.
“With the reduced snowpack we had this year, reduced rainfall, usually we get a lot of rain there in March. We haven’t had that. The area were standing in today should not be dusty should not be dusty,” said Jim McDougald, Cal Fire assistant chief for the Fresno, Kings unit in charge of fire prevention. “So what I think you’re gonna see is July you’re going to start seeing these fuels be in a place where they can burn and are available to burn.”