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California officials discuss state’s preparedness for wildfire season amid pandemic


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) — More than 4,000 wildfires have burned so far this year.

But COVID-19 isn’t stopping California from ramping up its efforts against the firefight.

“We are in peak wildfire season,” Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said.

State emergency management leaders Thursday gave an update on the state’s preparedness for another intense wildfire season in California.

Officials say so far this year, 4,112 wildfires have already burned — when California typically averages about 2,500 a year.

Governor Newsom announced the state is bringing on 858 seasonal firefighters through at least October to help boost hand-crews usually provided by the state’s prison system.

“One of the things that has occurred with COVID is that we’ve been impacted in terms of our conservation corps and our partnership with CDCR in terms of total number of hand-crews because of quarantine or those exposed,” Gov. Newsom said.

He says the recently passed state budget allows for equipment upgrades including new Blackhawk helicopters to help fight fire at night, along with $80 million to hire 172 more full time firefighters.

Evacuation centers will be different this year.

Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci says face masks and temperature checks will be mandatory.

Evacuees who are COVID-19 positive and negative will be separated, meals will be served in boxes, hotels may be used and extra medical staff will be on site.

“Let me be clear, there’s nothing extremely linear about this,” Ghilarducci said. “This is always working through the circumstances of a particular fire, of a particular community.”

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