SACRAMENTO – Building on lessons learned from past catastrophic wildfires, Governor Gavin Newsom Friday proclaimed a state of emergency throughout California ahead of the coming fire season.
Newsom is directing his administration to immediately expedite forest management projects that will protect 200 of California’s most wildfire-vulnerable communities.
This action follows the release of a report earlier this month by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which identified 35 priority fuel-reduction projects that can be implemented immediately to help reduce the public safety risk for wildfire.
“The increasing wildfire risks we face as a state mean we simply can’t wait until a fire starts in order to start deploying emergency resources,” Newsom said. “California needs sustained focus and immediate action in order to better protect our communities.”
The state of emergency provides time-saving waivers of administrative and regulatory requirements to protect public safety and allow for action to be taken in the next 12 months, which will begin to systematically address community vulnerability and wildfire fuel buildup through the rapid deployment of forest management resources.
These 35 priority projects were identified by geographic areas with populations that are particularly at risk during natural disasters. Paired with traditional natural risk factors, this data paints a more accurate assessment of the real human risk and can help guide preventative action to help prevent loss of life — especially for vulnerable groups.
Previously, Newsom issued an executive order on his first full day in office directing CAL FIRE, in consultation with other state agencies and departments, to recommend immediate, medium- and long-term actions to help prevent destructive wildfires.
Newsom Friday also announced the next phase of an effort to modernize the way the state contracts for goods and technology systems, to prepare for and assist during disasters.
The “Innovation Procurement Sprint” seeks to turn government contracting on its head by giving the best and brightest minds an opportunity to have their wildfire solutions tested and evaluated in the field. The Governor ordered this “sprint” so that the best tools and technologies can be purchased under government contract while they are still cutting-edge, in an effort to save lives and properties.
“California has experienced an increase in catastrophic wildfires over the past ten years,” said CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter. “The Procurement Sprint enables CAL FIRE to think outside the box and work with innovators from across the private, public and non-profit sectors to identify solutions to the challenge of detecting when a wildfire starts, and subsequently, where the fire will progress.”
Now that the Procurement Sprint is underway, CAL FIRE is inviting vendors, academics, entrepreneurs and scientists from a range of industries to propose innovative technological solutions to yield more comprehensive and effective results to address the state’s wildfire problems. The goal is to foster a culture of innovation, communication and collaboration between the private and public sectors and nonprofit organizations, while engaging the public in these efforts.
Further, Newsom announced additional details on the $50 million California for All Emergency Preparedness Campaign.
The campaign — a joint initiative between Cal Volunteers and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services — will augment the efforts of first responders by ensuring at least one million of the most vulnerable Californians are connected to culturally and linguistically competent support.
The campaign will provide:
* $24.25 million in grants to community-based organizations across the state to prepare residents for natural disasters through education and resources designed to bolster resiliency.
* $12.6 million to support community efforts to build resiliency and respond to disasters by dispatching expert disaster teams to key regions and expanding citizen emergency response teams (CERT).
* $13.15 million to assist community groups in the development of a linguistically and culturally appropriate public awareness and outreach campaign, directed specifically at the most vulnerable California communities.
Funding for this campaign through AB 72 was approved by the Legislature, and the bill was signed by the Governor last month.
In addition to the funding for preparedness communications, the California Natural Resources Agency and Department of Conservation have announced the award of $20 million in block grants for regional projects that improve forest health and increase fire resiliency. This Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program helps communities prioritize, develop and implement projects that strengthen fire resiliency.
Finally, the administration announced today that it is publishing Emergency Alert and Warning Guidelines. The guidelines, which were mandated as a result of SB 833 (McGuire), aim to help cities, counties and the state get on the same page when it comes to communicating with Californians in an emergency.