OAKLAND, Calif. - Governor Gavin Newsom took today's COVID-19 press conference to focus on another looming great danger, wildfires where property, citizens and first responders face the virus threat as well.
That's because the virus spares no one; including firefighters, even in remote locations.
Mindful of the anxiety coronavirus has wrought on Californians, CalFire is currently building up its strength to 6,100 permanent firefighters, 2,600 seasonal firefighters, 3,200 inmate firefighters, and 600 fire prevention volunteers.
This year already looks to be far different from last year's wet and mild fire season.
"From January to May 10th last year, we had 675 wildfires. From January to May 10th of this year we've had 1,135 wildfires," said Newsom.
So, while California continues to fight the viral pandemic, it must also be ready to fight wildfires while protecting the firefighters from the virus.
This is being done by training in smaller groups with more spacing between firefighters.
At real fires, base camp tents will be much farther apart to assure distancing as well.
"Trying to do our best to fight the spread; at the same time, we've got to mitigate and supress these fires," said Newsom.
The priority will be to use more people, aircraft, fire engines and firefighting equipment to nip fires in the bud.
"Initial attack is the component to keeping fires small and keeping firefighters healthy," said CalFire Chief Thom Porter.
PG&E and the other investor-owned utilities in California will be required to spend $5 billion on safety and wildfire mitigation.
To assure that happens, Newsom is increasing the state budget to launch a 106 person Wildfire Safety Division.
"That division will, 24/7, oversee the efforts of all three of our largest investor owned utilities," said Newsom.
As to Public Safety Power Shutoffs, Newsom says after consultations with utilities, shutoffs should last only half as long as they did in 2019.
More than ever, CalFire needs and expects individuals to help themselves and each other to clear brush for more defensible space.
"You can help your neighbors; neighbors helping neighbors to be prepared for this fire season," said Porter.
Overall, Newsom has announced hundreds of millions of dollars to set up emergency response to all hazards.
"The hots are getting hotter, the drys are getting dryer, the wets are getting wetter. There's a new reality," said Newsom.
Tomorrow, Newsom will release the overall budget to accomplish this and many other things.