OROVILLE, Calif. - California Gov. Gavin Newsom toured the massive fire area around Oroville on Friday as a break in the weather and a slight possibility of rain provided a small measure of hope to the region.
A very sober Newsom made statements filled with deep concern and a certain level of anger.
“I have no patience for climate-change deniers. It’s inconsistent with the reality on the ground, the facts," he said. Later adding, "If you do not believe in science, I hope you believe in observed evidence."
The 7.718 fires that California has experienced so far this year have consumed about 3.2 million acres. The fires have already killed 20 people 6,400 structures have been destroyed.
On Thursday, the August Complex Fire in Mendocino County that is now at 747,000 acres, became California's largest wildfire dating back to 1932. Five of the 20 largest fires in state history are raging right now.
"We're experiencing what so many people predicted decades and decades ago. All of that now is reality," said Newsom.
The year 2020 is, by far, the worst fire season on record for lost acreage and two of the worst months still lie ahead. The governor said firefighters are already in a pitched battle against 28 large scale mega-fires in the state, plus many smaller fires.
"We're seeing impacts today, that we thought would materialize by mid-century and that's a really important point," said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crofoot.
"We're establishing temperatures, world record-breaking temperatures in the state of California; 130 degrees," said Newsom.
Veteran fire scientist and UC Berkeley professor Scott Stephens said last month's lightning swarms astonished him. "
That really is unprecedented, You know, I don't know if we've ever had something like that in recorded history. We've had lightning, like in June of 2008, but that hit the Sierra Nevada, the Klamath mountains; not here in the Bay Area," Stephens said.
Though California has done a lot in the last few years, most fire scientists believe the state has to far better manage vegetation as well as making people and communities fire safe.
"If we don't change those fundamentals, there's no way we're ever gonna get out of this mess," said Stephens. "Mother Nature is physics, biology, and chemistry.
As Newsom put it: "She[mother nature] bats last and she bats a thousand," said Newsom.
The need for personnel is so great right now.
Governor also signed into law today a controversial bill that would allow former inmate firefighters to qualify for firefighting jobs as released citizens.
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