FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – On Monday, Governor Newsom rolled out his plan to invest $2 billion in wildfire and emergency preparedness – the largest in state history.
“We are doubling our historic wildfire budget from the $1 billion we proposed in January to now $2 billion,” Newsom said.
According to CAL Fire, there have already been 1,000 more fires across the state so far this year than there were last year. They say this increase in funds for more crews and equipment is going to be vital this summer.
“These additional resources are definitely going to help and impact the fire ground that we’re going to see daily,” said CAL Fire Fresno battalion chief Jeremiah Wittwer.
The plan includes $40 million to address deferred maintenance projects, an increase of more than $5 million to the wildfire forecast and threat intelligence integration center, and $48 million to phase in 12 new CAL fire hawk helicopters and seven C-130 air tankers.
Wittwer said the additional funding will have an immediate impact on crews in the Central Valley. They’ve already hired an additional 115 seasonal firefighters.
“We’re going to see additional firefighters on the ground, we’re enhancing our helicopters, some of our other aircraft… Within the intel side, a lot of our fire crew stuff right now that we’re enhancing,” he said.
Last fire season, California saw a historic four million acres burn. 380,000 of those acres came from Central Valley supervisor Nathan Magsig’s district. He said between the increased budget and lessons learned last fire season, he believes CAL Fire is prepared for this summer.
“We saw things for which we really hadn’t planned for in the past. Because of what we learned in 2020, I think we’re more prepared for what’s in store for us in 2021,” Magsig said.
CAL Fire Fresno will have their air tanker platform back on July 1.