Revised California budget will include more money to fight wildfires, power shutoffs, Gov. Newsom announces

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom's daily press conference on the coronavirus pandemic had a different theme - and a different backdrop - Wednesday afternoon.

From a fire station in El Dorado County, Newsom addressed another challenge California is facing: the threat of wildfires. After a dry winter, much of the state is experience drought conditions heading into peak fire season.

"Just this last week, 246 wildfires have occurred here in the state of California," Newsom said. "We just ran some numbers. From January to May 10 last year, we had 675 wildfires. From January to May 10 this year, we've had 1,130 wildfires."

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Newsom warned earlier this week the coronavirus pandemic has left the state with a multi-billion dollar budget deficit. In the revised state budget, which the governor plans to reveal Thursday, Newsom said he plans to dedicate more resources - not fewer - to fire safety and disaster preparedness.

The additional resources include a new Wildfire Safety Division at the Public Utilities Commission to oversee investor-owned utilities like PG&E, funding for Cal Fire to support surge staffing, 26 additional fire engines and more.

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The governor's comments come a day after he laid out new guidelines for reopening restaurants, malls and offices around the state. Though many are anxious reopen more businesses, only twelve counties have been given the green light to open dine-in restaurants, shopping malls and schools.

"You've got to walk and chew gum at the same time," Newsom said. "We're focused on coronavirus mitigation, trying to do our best to suppress the spread. At the same time, we've got to suppress and mitigate these fires."

Nearly 70,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus. More than 2,800 people have died.

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