California governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on wildfires in the western U.S. state on Friday, aiming to strengthen forest fire prevention ahead of the coming fire season.
Building on lessons learned from past catastrophic wildfires, Newsom's order will direct his administration to immediately expedite forest management projects that will protect 200 of California's most wildfire-vulnerable communities.
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, said the governor.
California needs sustained focus and immediate action in order to better protect our communities, he added.
The action followed the release of a report earlier this month by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), which identified 35 priority fuel-reduction projects that can be implemented immediately to help reduce the public safety risk for wildfire.
According to the statement, 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.
Newsom also announced additional details on the 50-million-U.S. dollar California for All Emergency Preparedness Campaign.
More than 25 million acres of California wildlands are classified as under very high or extreme fire threat, extending that risk over half the state, according to the Cal Fire's Community Wildfire Prevention Mitigation Report released in January.
California experienced the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in its history in 2017 and 2018.
Fueled by drought, an unprecedented buildup of dry vegetation and extreme winds, the size and intensity of these wildfires caused the loss of more than 100 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and exposed millions of urban and rural Californians to unhealthy air.
The Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in the United States since 1918, caused at least 85 civilian fatalities and destroyed over 18,000 structures in 18 days in Northern California in November 2018.
(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)