Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
California Scrambles for More Firefighters Amid Pandemic
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 4 years ago on
July 10, 2020

Share

SACRAMENTO — As California enters wildfire season, the state is scrambling to find sufficient firefighters amid the coronavirus outbreak that has depleted the ranks of inmates who usually handle some of the toughest duties and caused a budget deficit that derailed plans to hire 600 new state firefighters and support personnel.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday said the state would instead add 172 professional firefighters and he’ll use his emergency authority to beef up seasonal crews as the state enters another hot, dry summer when fires often rage out of control.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday said the state would instead add 172 professional firefighters and he’ll use his emergency authority to beef up seasonal crews as the state enters another hot, dry summer when fires often rage out of control.
The threat from coronavirus already sidelined some of the firefighting hand crews that do what Newsom called “the really hard grunt work.” They typically include 15-17 inmates or civilian California Conservation Corps members who use hand tools and chainsaws to cut and scrape road-like clearings through trees and brush to stem the spread of wildfires.
Just 94 of the state’s 192 authorized inmate crews are available, “substantially down from where we’ve been in the past,” Newsom said, after the state was forced to temporarily quarantine 12 inmate firefighter camps last month. The state has also released thousands of inmates to create space during the pandemic and before that, as part of a plan to reduce incarceration for lower-level offenses.
In response, Newsom announced Thursday he will use $72.4 million to hire 858 additional seasonal firefighters and field six more California Conservation Corps crews through October. That’s sharply down from his pre-pandemic plan to spend $200 million to hire about 500 professional firefighters and 100 support staff. The budget he signed last week includes funding for the 172 permanent positions.
Tim Edwards, president of the union representing state firefighters, said even the 600 positions would merely have restored the state’s professional ranks to normal, but called the new hires “a very good start.”
The news comes as the state reported a record 149 virus-related deaths, although Newsom noted that some may be delayed reports. California’s death toll has now topped 6,700, with hospital admissions climbing 44% over the last two weeks, forcing state-ordered shutdowns of many businesses like bars and indoor restaurants that had just reopened.
[covid-19-tracker]

Officials Are Also Taking Steps to Prevent the Virus From Spreading Among Firefighters

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The Red Cross also put out a call Thursday for more fire season volunteers, saying the pandemic will make it hard to deploy trained disaster volunteers from other parts of the country if a major wildfire breaks out.
Red Cross and state officials say they hope to put evacuees in hotels when possible, but when shelters are needed they will add medical workers to conduct health screenings, sanitize shared living quarters and help with food distribution.
Officials are also taking steps to prevent the virus from spreading among firefighters, in part by keeping crew members together but physically separated from other teams.
“They will be considered a family unit” as they eat, sleep, travel and fight fires together, CalFire Chief Thom Porter said.
He said he doesn’t expect to field the full number of inmate crews anytime this year. But he hopes that by the height of the fall wildfire season the state can have about 155 crews operating, about the same as last year.
California is compensating in part by finding more bulldozers and boosting its air power with things such as three modern Black Hawk firefighting helicopters, one of which served as a backdrop for Newsom’s news conference.
Those aircraft can quickly dump water and retardant on and around small fires to help keep them from growing out of control, Porter said.
“We will make it happen,” Porter said. “We have the air fleet to do so.”

DON'T MISS

The Cost to Inform California Voters? $118,000 a Page for Official Guide

DON'T MISS

Top Russian Military Officials Are Being Arrested. Why Is It Happening?

DON'T MISS

Delta Tunnel Water Project May Finally Be Nearing a Historic Decision

DON'T MISS

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

DON'T MISS

Take This Memorial Day Quiz Before Warming up the Grill

DON'T MISS

Hate Wasting Money? Use These 7 Hacks to Feed Your Family for Less

DON'T MISS

NCAA and Leagues Back $2.8 Billion Settlement, Setting Stage for Current, Former Athletes to Be Paid

DON'T MISS

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

DON'T MISS

Newsom Promised 1,200 Tiny Homes for Homeless Californians. How Many Are Being Used?

DON'T MISS

Fresno Unified Unveils 5-Year Literacy Plan. What Are the Expectations?

UP NEXT

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

UP NEXT

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

UP NEXT

Newsom Promised 1,200 Tiny Homes for Homeless Californians. How Many Are Being Used?

UP NEXT

UAW Files Objection to Mercedes Vote, Accuses Company of Intimidating Workers

UP NEXT

Fresno Man Charged with Throwing Meth into Mendota Prison Yard

UP NEXT

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

UP NEXT

Cal Chamber’s Job Killer List Shrinks, but Does Its Influence?

UP NEXT

California Advances Legislation Cracking Down on Stolen Goods Resellers and Auto Theft

UP NEXT

Portland Nurse Returns Home After Treating Gaza Burn Victims

UP NEXT

Search and Rescue Ongoing After Iowa Tornado; 1 Dead

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

1 day ago

Take This Memorial Day Quiz Before Warming up the Grill

1 day ago

Hate Wasting Money? Use These 7 Hacks to Feed Your Family for Less

1 day ago

NCAA and Leagues Back $2.8 Billion Settlement, Setting Stage for Current, Former Athletes to Be Paid

2 days ago

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

2 days ago

Newsom Promised 1,200 Tiny Homes for Homeless Californians. How Many Are Being Used?

2 days ago

Fresno Unified Unveils 5-Year Literacy Plan. What Are the Expectations?

2 days ago

Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Teaching Bomb-Making to Person Targeting Authorities

2 days ago

UCLA Police Arrest Young Man for Alleged Felony Assault in Attack on Pro-Palestinian Encampment

2 days ago

UAW Files Objection to Mercedes Vote, Accuses Company of Intimidating Workers

2 days ago

The Cost to Inform California Voters? $118,000 a Page for Official Guide

What’s the cost of democracy in California? Sameea Kamal CalMatters If we calculate that based just on the pages informing the state’s 22...

7 hours ago

7 hours ago

The Cost to Inform California Voters? $118,000 a Page for Official Guide

7 hours ago

Top Russian Military Officials Are Being Arrested. Why Is It Happening?

7 hours ago

Delta Tunnel Water Project May Finally Be Nearing a Historic Decision

1 day ago

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

1 day ago

Take This Memorial Day Quiz Before Warming up the Grill

1 day ago

Hate Wasting Money? Use These 7 Hacks to Feed Your Family for Less

2 days ago

NCAA and Leagues Back $2.8 Billion Settlement, Setting Stage for Current, Former Athletes to Be Paid

2 days ago

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend