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California had its worst wildfire season last year – and officials now fear more of the same
“We had record high temperatures in our own backyard in California … 130 degrees in our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday as he launched a $ 536 million fundraising program to boost disease prevention projects. fires.

The outlook is already worrisome as 91% of the state suffers from drought and has reported consecutive months of drought since last October, according to the US Drought Monitor.

“Even record investments in this space are not enough to cope with the scale of this reality,” Newsom said. “But yes, we need to do more on forest management and vegetation management.”

The new legislation will invest millions of dollars to hire additional firefighters, purchase mechanical equipment, build defensible spaces and develop vegetation management projects that will control and slow down fires, Newsom said.

“We can’t stress that this summer is going to be tough,” said Wade Crowfoot, California secretary of natural resources. “We are just coming out of our second consecutive dry winter and what we can expect this summer in wildfire conditions is more or less the same as last summer.”

California wildfires last year consumed more than 4.2 million acres.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CAL FIRE, the fire season in the West started earlier and ends later each year. The length of the fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days in the Sierras and appears to correspond to an increase in the extent of wildfires statewide.

Overall, California spends more than $ 1 billion on forest fire prevention and preparedness efforts, Newsom said.

Last week, state officials approved the allocation of more than $ 80 million in emergency funds to improve forest management and wildfire response efforts. This funding will specifically support 1,399 additional firefighters within CAL FIRE and allow the training of firefighting teams before the peak fire season, which takes place between July and October.

CAL FIRE says climate change is to blame for the increased wildfire season. “Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack and earlier snowmelt in the spring create longer and more intense dry seasons which increase water stress on vegetation and make forests more vulnerable to forest fires” , he says on his website.

California state officials are expected to review and approve details of the legislation early next week.

“Thank you to the California legislature for taking these dollars and allowing us to run these dollars at an all-time high that this state has never seen in the past,” Newsom added.

CNN’s Jessica Myers contributed to this report.

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