SACRAMENTO, Calif. - As temperatures start to rise, for Californians, it's a reality wildfire season is quickly approaching in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced California’s fire agencies will bolster its efforts for the upcoming wildfire season.
It’s “a new reality that climate change is real and it’s here and the effects are profound,” Newsom said.
The governor said the state will have more resilient strategies in place. He plans to announce the effort’s budget on Thursday, which will be included in California’s budget revision.
Just this week alone, he said, there have been 246 wildfires in the state.
He also announced that the Public Utilities Commission is building a team of 106 employees, who will form a Wildfire Safety Division. Eventually, this division will become an independent entity and will oversee the state's three investor-owned utilities, including PG&E, which is still in bankruptcy.
"We are not stepping back our efforts, we are stepping them up," Newsom said. "Even with COVID-19, we are mindful of the threats, we are mindful of the understandable anxiety."
Newsom said for CAL Fire, $87.5 million will be allocated to improve the fire department’s surge capacity, in addition to the ability to hire critical personal before the peak of wildfire season. He anticipates 600 personnel will be needed to protect people from wildfire and to help mitigate the ferocity of wildfires.
The governor of The Golden State also announced that the Public Utilities Commission is building a team of 106 employees, who will comprise the Wildfire Safety Division. That division, which already exists, is led by Director Caroline Thomas Jacobs.
Eventually, Newsom said this division will become an independent entity and will oversee the state's three investor-owned utilities, including PG&E, which is still in bankruptcy.
The safety division, created in 2019, is tasked with overseeing utilities’ safety plans. California officials have found utility equipment to be the cause of some major wildfires.