Disaster Prep Gets A Boost In Newsom's Revised Budget

A firefighter prepares to fight a wildfire as it overtakes a home Oct. 24, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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California faces a $54.3 billion budget shortfall, but those agencies responsible for tackling disasters — primarily wildfires — could see boosts to their coffers if Gov. Gavin Newsom's revised budget passes as is.

For instance, California's Office of Emergency Services, which oversees disaster response and recovery in the state, could receive an additional $127 million this year, while other agencies see big cuts.

FIGHTING WILDFIRES IS A PRIORITY

At a news conference held in a firehouse yesterday, Newsom said that state officials have seen a 60% increase in the number of wildfires this year between January and May, as compared to last year, due to dry conditions.

"We still don't have the people and the equipment we need in this state with the hots getting so much hotter and the dries getting so much drier, to address climate change and address the reality of wildfire management," said Newsom.

To that end, CalFire's looking at a potential $90 million infusion, $86 million of which is meant for the hiring of an additional 600 people before the peak of wildfire season. Some of those hires are to make up for the potential loss of as many as 80 inmate crews due to early release. They've already lost 44.

$4.4 million of that increase is meant for implementation of new wildfire prediction tech.

In terms of equipment, the state's also adding 26 wildland fire engines by the end of July. And they're still bringing in 12 Black Hawk helicopters which cost them $24 million a piece. They're meant to replace the agency's fleet of Hueys as they can carry more water, can fly faster, and be used to operate at night

$50 million in grants will be available to counties that suffer from power outages during wildfire season.


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NOTABLE CUTS

In terms of cuts, back in January, Newsom proposed a $100 million grant program to help people harden their homes against wildfires, particularly those located in the wildland urban interface. For now, that program is done for.

Newsom's proposed Climate Catalyst Fund — a program meant to provide loans to some climate friendly businesses — is no longer going to pull $250 million from the general fund in the coming year. California's Legislative Analyst's Office had recommended against the state adopting the program after it was first proposed in January.

Old, abandoned oil and gas wells are a public health issue and need to be cleaned up. However, the $4.2 million that'd been proposed for "new clean up" at these so-called "orphan sites" has been pulled.