Governor Newsom Proclaims State of Emergency on Wildfires to Protect State’s Most Vulnerable Communities

SACRAMENTO – Building on lessons learned from past catastrophic wildfires, Governor Gavin Newsom today proclaimed a state of emergency throughout California ahead of the coming fire season. The Governor is directing his administration to immediately expedite forest management projects that will protect 200 of California’s most wildfire-vulnerable communities.

This action follows 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.

“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 Governor Newsom. “California needs sustained focus and immediate action in order to better protect our communities.”

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.

These 35 priority projects were identified by geographic areas with populations that are particularly at risk during natural disasters. Paired with traditional natural risk factors, this data paints a more accurate assessment of the real human risk and can help guide preventative action to help prevent loss of life — especially for vulnerable groups.

Previously, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on his first full day in office directing CAL FIRE, in consultation with other state agencies and departments, to recommend immediate, medium- and long-term actions to help prevent destructive wildfires.

Governor Newsom today also announced the next phase of an effort to modernize the way the state contracts for goods and technology systems, to prepare for and assist during disasters.

The “Innovation Procurement Sprint” seeks to turn government contracting on its head by giving the best and brightest minds an opportunity to have their wildfire solutions tested and evaluated in the field. The Governor ordered this “sprint” so that the best tools and technologies can be purchased under government contract while they are still cutting-edge, in an effort to save lives and properties.

“California has experienced an increase in catastrophic wildfires over the past ten years,” said CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter. “The Procurement Sprint enables CAL FIRE to think outside the box and work with innovators from across the private, public and non-profit sectors to identify solutions to the challenge of detecting when a wildfire starts, and subsequently, where the fire will progress.”

Now that the Procurement Sprint is underway, CAL FIRE is inviting vendors, academics, entrepreneurs and scientists from a range of industries to propose innovative technological solutions to yield more comprehensive and effective results to address the state’s wildfire problems. The goal is to foster a culture of innovation, communication and collaboration between the private and public sectors and nonprofit organizations, while engaging the public in these efforts.

Further, Governor Newsom announced additional details on the $50 million California for All Emergency Preparedness Campaign.

The campaign — a joint initiative between Cal Volunteers and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services – will augment the efforts of first responders by ensuring at least one million of the most vulnerable Californians are connected to culturally and linguistically competent support.

The campaign will provide:

  • $24.25 million in grants to community-based organizations across the state to prepare residents for natural disasters through education and resources designed to bolster resiliency.
  • $12.6 million to support community efforts to build resiliency and respond to disasters by dispatching expert disaster teams to key regions and expanding citizen emergency response teams (CERT).
  • $13.15 million to assist community groups in the development of a linguistically and culturally appropriate public awareness and outreach campaign, directed specifically at the most vulnerable California communities.

Funding for this campaign through AB 72 was approved by the Legislature, and the bill was signed by the Governor last month.

In addition to the funding for preparedness communications, the California Natural Resources Agency and Department of Conservation have announced the award of $20 million in block grants for regional projects that improve forest health and increase fire resiliency. This Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program helps communities prioritize, develop and implement projects that strengthen fire resiliency.

Finally, the administration announced today that it is publishing Emergency Alert and Warning Guidelines. The guidelines, which were mandated as a result of SB 833 (McGuire), aim to help cities, counties and the state get on the same page when it comes to communicating with Californians in an emergency.

Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) 2017 wildfires, and statewide wildfire siege in 2018 . Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

2 thoughts on “Governor Newsom Proclaims State of Emergency on Wildfires to Protect State’s Most Vulnerable Communities

  • March 23, 2019 at 10:00 am
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    As new OES model one and three are received, instead of selling the older units, consider donation to departments who can put them to use as a “third” level of service.

    They can be staffed by paid call folks, volunteers or overtime of paid staff.

    This would be for local use, when all other equipment is not available, being first line, reserve and OES. While some have lots of miles on them, they would not go on statewide strike teams but for local regional use. Having them remain available two or three more years, could be a life saver, pariculary to the smaller departments.

    Other use for them could be just as hose tenders, water shuttles, even as back up medical squads.

    Reply
  • March 27, 2019 at 7:15 am
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    Bullet #2 “Community” Emergency Response Teams, not “Citizen.”

    Reply

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