California braces for the worst as wildfires burn more acres than last year
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California braces for the worst as wildfires burn more acres than last year

Despite unprecedented preparations, full tanks and a lightning-fast response from firefighters, this year’s fire season has surpassed recent years.

To prevent a catastrophe, it is necessary to engage all forces, including public vigilance.

That was the focus of an hour-long news conference in Sacramento this morning with Gov. Gavin Newsom and state emergency officials.

CalFire Director Joe Tyler said the warm temperatures are creating new challenges, and despite the larger fires, the damage has thankfully been minimal. “Although the acres are large, the number of fatalities at this point is zero, the damage or destruction of structures is minimal, it’s largely because of the heat, the drying of fuels and the winds that were associated with that that this vegetation burned so quickly,” Tyler said.

In addition to appealing to residents to create defensible spaces and properly use power tools that can cause sparks, such as lawn mowers and sanders,

Tyler said ordinary Californians need to do their part.

“Create a wildfire action plan that includes evacuation routes, meeting points, animal placement and a communication plan with family, and listen to guidance from law enforcement and firefighters regarding warnings and evacuation orders,” Tyler added.

Tyler said 44 new fires have broken out in California in the past 24 hours, and more than 200,000 acres have burned so far this year.

For comparison, during the same period last year there were less than 10,000.

That was a point Newsom emphasized. “We’re already experiencing a disproportionately high number of acres burned. It’s not the fires that are being started, it’s the number of acres burned that’s much higher,” the governor said.

Newsom praised the legislature for agreeing to repeated requests to hire more firefighters. Referring to the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history, “We had about 6,700 CalFire employees in July of 2018, about 6,700 was listed. Today, we have 9,700 CalFire employees,” Newsom added.

Newsom said the Legislature approved plans to hire 2,400 more CalFire officers over the next five years.