‘Terrible miscommunication’: President of state’s largest firefighting union defends Newsom

California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — California’s largest firefighting labor group is defending Gov. Gavin Newsom after a report showed he misled the public on some wildfire prevention efforts. 

California Professional Firefighters represents about 30,000 first responders across the state, and its president, Brian Rice, is adamant the governor is not to blame for what he says is a communication breakdown. 

“This is what it is, it’s a terrible miscommunication. Someone has taken responsibility for it,” Rice said. 

A CapRadio and California NPR investigation found Newsom and Cal Fire allowed the public to believe a high-priority forest management project treated significantly more acres than it actually did. 

“The miscommunication lays directly with Director Thom Porter of Cal Fire, both to the Governor’s office in passing that information forward and then also to the public,” Rice said. “I know Thom Porter. He is a man of honor, he has owned this, he has not side stepped it. And, it’s about as unfortunate as it can get.”

The alleged miscommunication comes from Newsom’s administration saying it had treated 90,000 acres in 35 high-priority projects, which were launched in 2019. 

Rice said he used the same information from a “trusted and valued source.”

“Sometimes miscommunication happens,” Rice said. 

As of Wednesday, a fact sheet linked with the governor’s executive order that directed the projects specifically using the word “treated” has been taken off of Cal Fire’s website. The agency now says the effort protects those 90,000 acres. 

“I understand the explanation, it does not mean that I like it. You can treat certain areas for certain things. As a firefighter, you understand those things,” Rice explained. “But as just a Californian, if I didn’t do this as my job, it would be much harder for me to understand.”

Rice gave his comments less than two months after Newsom launched his anti-recall campaign alongside Rice and dozens of other firefighters. 

He says, overall, Gov. Newsom has made significant progress on the state’s firefighting and prevention efforts. 

“There’s been some very progressive and good things taking place. We have to look at this for what it is. It was a screw-up,” Rice said. “Let’s stop and move forward from there and stay on the aggressive path to protecting California.” 

Gov. Newsom has yet to comment on the report. 

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