California Governor Newsom has approved $80 million to hire or bring on earlier than usual a total of 1,399 additional firefighters to bolster CAL FIRE’s fuels management and wildfire response efforts the rest of this fiscal year which ends June 30, 2021.
This Emergency Fund authorization includes a surge of 1,256 seasonal firefighters. This funding will provide fire crew and fire engine staffing, augments eight currently understaffed existing fire crews ahead of the summer, and allows the early hiring and training of fire crews for fuels management. The funding would also provide twelve new CAL FIRE crews, and twelve new Conservation Corps crews.
Further, the state will onboard 24 seasonal firefighters for California National Guard hand crews who support CAL FIRE’s fuels management work.
The funding will also create the opportunity to bring on 119 helitack firefighters earlier than usual this year to allow them time to train and be operationally ready by May, 2021. This includes the orientation and operation of the new S-70i CAL FIRE Hawk helicopters that will operate from four helitack bases.
Proposals for the next fiscal year
For the Fiscal Year that begins in July, 2021 the Governor proposes a $143 million General Fund to support 30 new fire crews, and also includes $48 million to continue phasing in the new S-70i helicopters and large air tankers.
The Governor proposes $1 billion to support California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan. The initiative sets forth a strategy to increase the pace and scale of forest and wildland management to meet the state’s target of completing projects on 500,000 acres annually by 2025 and expanding the use of prescribed fire. The plan centers on building fuel breaks around vulnerable communities, expanding home hardening, defensible space and preparedness planning to create wildfire-adapted communities, and sustaining the economic vitality of rural forested areas.
The article was modified to indicate that the twelve new Conservation Corps crews being established are not Conservation Camp (inmate) crews.