California ramps up, adjusts fire fighting efforts amid pandemic

California Connection

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — With more than 4,000 wildfires burned so far in 2020, California isn’t letting COVID-19 impact its fire fighting efforts.  

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

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

Officials say so far this year, 4,112 fires have already burned when California 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 now been impacted in terms of our conservation corps and our partnership with CDCR in terms of total number of hand crews that we have available because of quarantine or those exposed,” said Newsom. 

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

Evacuation centers will also be different. 

California Office of Emergency Services 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. This is always working through the circumstances of a particular fire, of a particular community,” said Ghilarducci. 

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