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State, federal officials discuss plans to deal with wildfires in California

Hot, dry weather, tinder-dry brush. Wildfires may be worse in the summer months… but they’re now a year-round concern in California. Today, an update on what the state is doing to prevent, respond to and help people recover from wildfires. Here’s KPBS reporter John Carroll.

As climate change continues to alter our weather, Cal Fire came to the conclusion some time ago that the concept of “wildfire season” was out of date.

One is currently burning right in Napa. It’s grown to nearly 600 acres with only 5% containment and structures are threatened.

According to Cal Fire, firefighters statewide have responded to more than 2,280 wildfires since Jan. 1, outpacing the 1,744 five-year average over the same time period.


“We know that last year’s fire season was the worst in our state’s history, and sadly it’s not an outlier. (We had the same) the year before that and the year before that," Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) said in a webinar held Wednesday.

Padilla was joined by other state and federal officials, providing an update on what the government is doing about wildfires; trying to keep them from happening, making sure the resources are in place when they do, and helping Californians recover. Among them was the director of the state Office of Emergency Services, Mark Ghilarducci.

“Shoring up our electrical infrastructure is a key strategy in mitigating fire risk," Ghilarrducci said. "We are investing heavily in pre-event planning, mitigation and preparedness across the state to build resilient communities."

But even with the best prevention efforts, wildfires will happen. Ghilarducci said the state uses federal funds through the infrastructure bill and money from California’s coffers to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“Cal OES is also working closely with our local government fire and emergency management agencies … to ensure there’s close coordination across all jurisdictions," he said.


After a fire has done its damage, and before they can even think about rebuilding, many Californians face further challenges posed by flooding and debris flows. Padilla said he’s introduced legislation to help.

“The fire suppression improvement act and the post-fire flood and debris flow act will help us meet the growing threat of natural disaster from initial ignition to post-fire recovery," he said.

The EPA is also working with the state to set up clean air centers for populations particularly vulnerable to harmful wildfire smoke. It's a multi-faceted approach to wildfires that last year burned more than 2.5 million acres in California and destroyed or damaged more than 3,500 structures.

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