Cal Fire and other agencies finding new ways to combat fires

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MATHER, Calif. (KTXL) -- Officials from multiple agencies discussed their approach and strategy for dealing with fires burning across the state and the fire conditions Wednesday at California’s Office of Emergency Services in Mather.

Cal Fire said there is no longer a fire season in the state but rather Californians should be ready for year-round fires that burn faster and more intense than previous fires.

The new conditions are prompting agencies to find new, creative ways to try to mitigate fire risks.

“We have been strategically propositioning fire strike teams and task forces throughout the state,” said California National Guard Maj. Gen. David Baldwin.

As the fires burning across the state become more intense, the techniques to battle them also become more intense.

“Earlier this week we flew two helicopters in support of PG&E’s efforts to inspect transmission lines,” Baldwin said.

For the first time in its history, the California National Guard flew two helicopters to help a private company, Pacific Gas & Electric, check and maintain its lines amid power shutoffs in fire-prone areas.

“We provide those types of platforms to law enforcement and emergency response agencies almost on a daily basis. But it’s the first time we’ve provided them to a private company,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said it’s an exceptional measure all in the name of public safety and if the governor requests it, it may happen more often.

Cal Fire Director Tom Porter said the massive power shutoffs are not ideal, but it’s the reality Californians are in.

“Unfortunately, we’re in a time when we need to do that more throughout the state. Everybody needs to be thinking about this,” Porter said.

Cal OES said they’ll continue traditional measures like requesting more fire crews from other states – 150 engines as of Wednesday.

They will also continue getting funding from the federal government in the form of Fire Management Assistance Grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It’s on a reimbursement and it’s 75% of the cost of the entire event,” Porter said.

As fires intensify, Cal OES said those dollar amounts will go up with the total cost of the fire not being final until it is put out.

Whether the National Guard continues to provide costly resources to PG&E, it hinges on how well the utility manages its equipment going forward, officials say. The National Guard, however, won’t deny a request from the governor.

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