Newsom announces $536M wildfire prevention plan while visiting Fresno County

ByVanessa Vasconcelos, Nathalie Granda KGO logo
Saturday, April 10, 2021
California announces $536 million wildfire prevention plan
Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the Shaver Lake area in Fresno County Thursday afternoon.

FRESNO, Calif. -- Gov. Gavin Newsom and California lawmakers have announced a new $536 million plan that would help the state respond to and recover from wildfires.

State lawmakers say the plan will provide funding to invest in forest health projects and forestry agencies, protecting homes against fires, fire prevention grants and other fire prevention workforce training.

Newsom made the announcement while visiting the Shaver Lake area in Fresno County Thursday afternoon to tour the work being done by CAL FIRE crews to prepare for wildfire season.

The new funding will help with vegetation and terrain management on both public and private lands.

Of the $536 million package, $125 million will come from the state's Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds and the remaining $411 million will be used from the state's general fund.

Lawmakers say they also plan to apply for federal grants to put toward wildfire prevention.

RELATED: Newsom: California to add nearly 1,400 firefighters amid dry winter weather

Newsom said the legislature looks to vote on the plan as soon as Monday. He hopes to sign the bill on Tuesday.

The governor said he hopes the plan will allow for a more collaborative approach on the state and federal level to preventing and responding to wildfires.

"When you experience what we experienced last year in August in a 24 hours period, 12,000 lightning strikes. When you experience a heat dome over the entire West Coast of the United States with world record-breaking high temperatures in our own back yard," Newsom said. "We must deal with the underlying cause of the issues relating to climate change, and yes, we need to do more on forest management, vegetation management, more prescribed burns."

"(Wildfire response) should not divide any of us because we're all in this one together," he added.

Lawmakers say they also plan to apply for federal grants to put toward wildfire prevention.

Earlier this week, Newsom said he was using his emergency authority to spend $80.74 million to hire 1,399 additional firefighters at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, better known as CAL FIRE.

The news comes after California saw one of the worst wildfire seasons in 2020. One of those devastating fires was the Creek Fire, which burned through the Sierra Nevada in Fresno and Madera counties and became the largest single wildfire in California's history.

California had another dry winter which will likely mean another challenging year ahead for firefighters across the state.

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Nearly 3 million Californians, that's one in 12 homes, are at risk of burning in a wildfire and the 2020 wildfire season was one for the record books.

CAL FIRE officials say they're already seeing more wildland fires this year.

They are bringing back staff earlier than in past years, getting them back in the academy and re-trained to be ready if a fire sparks.

Besides getting more boots on the ground, the funding announced by Newsom will also bring new technological advancements and aircraft to the fight against wildfires.

The goal is to have hand and Helitack crews trained on new equipment and ready at a moment's notice by May.