Federal, California officials share fire response tactics with 11 counties under state of emergency

Wildfire Watch

(KTXL) – Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed 11 counties under a state of emergency Wednesday. 

The governor’s Office of Emergency Services Center is operating at its highest level as they monitor 12 large, active wildfires that have burned a combined total of 1.3 million acres.

Resources from Cal Fire, the U.S Forest Service, California Highway Patrol and National Guardsmen from Utah, Nevada and Louisiana are working to battle the Dixie Fire. 

“We’re flying 20 different types of aircraft in support of fire suppression operations,” said Major General David Baldwin, the adjutant general of the California National Guard.

“We are seeing generational destruction of forests because of what these fires are doing,” explained Cal Fire Director and Fire Chief Thom Porter.

The state’s resources are being stretched incredibly thin, with most of them being sent to the Dixie Fire.

But the Caldor Fire is presenting an even bigger issue for firefighters who have already been battling blazes for two months. Wednesday morning, six strike teams were pulled from the Dixie Fire to respond to the Caldor Fire.

“They were released from the Dixie Fire and sent straight over the hill because they were the closest resources available,” Porter said.

“If we have a new fire start and we’re not able to put significant resources on it to fight it, we’re thinking about can the public in that situation be safe?” explained U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Pacific Southwest Deputy Regional Forester Tony Scardina.

With 31,000 Californians under mandatory fire evacuations, Scardina said the U.S. Forest Service is proposing broader evacuations on federal lands to prevent new fires from starting.

“That is to keep the public safe, keep fires off the landscape and keep our firefighters sustained over a long period of time,” Scardina explained. 

Officials are also urging residents to evacuate as soon as the orders are given.

“When warnings occur, traffic trickles out of those communities,” said California Highway Patrol Chief Mike Dust. “When an order happens, that turns into traffic jams, and it becomes very difficult then for people to escape.” 

“Getting people out of the way of these fires is the best way to protect your communities,” Porter advised.

When resources are limited with these types of fires, Porter said agencies would usually call on Canada’s fire resources or overseas, but Canada is also battling major wildfires and the pandemic is restricting aid from other countries. 

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