McCLELLAN, Calif. May 7, 2019 – May used to be wildfire awareness month – but no more. The shift to Wildfire Preparedness was front and center as CAL FIRE, Cal OES, California National Guard, U.S. Forest Service and California Natural Resources Agency representatives officially launched the month-long campaign to be prepared for wildfire season 2019.
CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter began with a sobering recap of last year’s season: The occurrence of large, damaging fires has accelerated over the last decade, a tangible effect of the changing climate. Last year, 2018, again, the largest wildland fire in state’s history, the Mendocino Complex at 459,123 acres, killing one. Last year, California experienced the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in the state’s recorded history, the Camp Fire. In total, more than 1.86 million acres burned, over 22,000 structures were destroyed and tragically, over 100 lives were lost.
Porter continued, “In just the first four months of 2019, CAL FIRE has already responded to over 470 wildfire calls across California, that have burned over 1,180 acres.”
Approximately 147 million trees have died across the state due to drought conditions and the effects of the bark beetle infestation. These dead and dying trees make forests more susceptible to destructive wildfires and pose public safety risks from falling trees.
California National Guard Major General David Baldwin has over 100 National Guard Troops assigned fuel reduction projects, per Governor Newsom’s order. These Type 2 handcrews augment CAL FIRE’s capacity to conduct prescribed burns and other fuel reduction projects.
In addition to these crews, CAL FIRE has begun hiring and training seasonal firefighters. The Governor has allocated funds to enable CAL FIRE to purchase an additional 13 state engines as well crews to staff those engines.
U.S. Forest Service Deputy Regional Forester Tony Scardina agreed with Director Porter’s assessment, “The past two devastating fire seasons in California have demonstrated that there is a ‘New Normal.’”
Reducing the loss of lives, property, infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources from wildfires depends on long-term, sustainable, and collaborative community actions for fire adaptation.
More than 310,000 acres of vegetative treatments including more than 62,000 acres of prescribed burning were completed on National Forest lands in Calif in 2018.
Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci emphasized the need for Californians to be ready and have a plan to evacuate safely. Having a Go Bag packed and leaving early are the best means to stay safe during a wildfire.
Living in California means residents need to be aware of the serious threat these wildfires can pose and prepare accordingly. Improving a home’s resistance to wildfire and instituting a plan to leave early in a safe manner can dramatically increase the safety and survivability of the public and emergency personnel. Use fire-safe construction features, and look for points of entry where embers can enter the home during a fire.
“We all need to do our part,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. His agency announced $20 million in block grants for local and regional projects to improve forest health and increase fire resiliency earlier this year.
Funded by Cap-and-Trade revenues through California Climate Investments, the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program aims to help communities prioritize, develop, and implement projects to strengthen fire resiliency, increase carbon sequestration, and facilitate greenhouse gas reductions.
The program is one element of the state’s efforts to improve forest health, protect communities from wildfire risk and implement the California Forest Carbon Plan and Executive Order B-52-18. Projects funded through the program will build on priority projects identified by the Forest Management Task Force and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection through Executive Order N-05-19. For the Sierra, block grants were disbursed by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
Key stats and messages
Approximately 95 percent of wildfires in California are human-caused, which means they can be prevented.
The reality is that in a major wildfire, there simply will not be enough aircraft, fire engines or firefighters to defend every home in the early stages of the incident. This reality requires you, the public, to take personal responsibility for protecting yourself, your family, and your community.
All Californians need to accept fire as part of our natural landscape, understand the potential fire risk, and take action before a wildfire starts in order to minimize harm to residents, homes, businesses, and community assets. All the above aspect.
There is no denying that California is in for another challenging wildfire year.
No amount of rain will bring back 147 million dead trees and it will take several years of continued rain to get back to normal levels of moisture.
This year’s wet winter, the same as last year’s and year before, created a sizable crop of new growth grass. But don’t become complacent and let the wet weather fool you. The abundance of grass this year will again dry quickly and be very receptive to fire. Now is the time to act to prevent wildfires.