After last year’s historic wildfire season, Gov. Gavin Newsom has allocated $80.74 million to hire additional firefighters.
The emergency funding is being used to employ and train 1,399 more firefighters with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Katy McManus, a Cal Fire firefighter, has been battling wildfires all over the state for the past 16 years. During last year’s fire season, the most challenging part of her job was the lack of help, especially amid the pandemic, she said.
“This fire season, like every fire season, is going to be the worst fire season ever. It just keeps getting progressively worse,” McManus said. “So, we may be stretched thin across the state, so we need as many able people as possible to fill the gaps.”
As drought conditions worsen throughout the state, Newsom announced the state will use the additional money to prepare for another intense fire season. The funds allow for fire crews to be hired and trained earlier this year.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jeremy Roccholz said the extra resources will be crucial to fighting fires successfully.
“The more personnel we can get, the better. It’s a struggle, especially with wind events and lightning events and when we get so many fires and so little personnel, every extra person counts,” Roccholz added.
So far, he said they have already hired 150 firefighters this season in his unit alone.
“This is something that we prepare for, and we get ready for every year, and it seems like our offseasons are getting shorter and shorter each year,” Roccholz said.
McManus said the extra hires and earlier training this year are especially important to make her team stronger and better prepared to face the heat this summer.
“That’s how we protect peoples’ homes, and we go on these big fires, and that’s our responsibility. So it’s important that we are trained and that we’re physically ready to fight these wildland fires,” she said.
Additionally, Newsom’s January 2021 budget proposes $1 billion to support wildfire and forest management.