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California to spend $536M to combat wildfires

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Posted at 4:06 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 19:20:04-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The state is taking a more than half billion dollar jump start to combat what officials say could be a grim fire season in 2021.

“The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Thursday.

Newsom’s words are especially relevant in San Diego, which has only seen 4.8 inches of rain since October, putting the region on pace for its 18th driest year here in data dating back to 1851.

"There's a new reality," Newsom said. "You don't believe in climate change, you don't believe in science? You believe your own damn eyes."

In San Diego and the rest of California, the reality comes via wildfires, including last September's valley fire, which torched 17,000 acres in east county.

Looking ahead to fire season, Newsom and the state legislature announced an agreement Thursday to spend $536 million in wildfire preparation projects now, as opposed to next to next fiscal year, which starts in July.

“Yes, we're going to do more X-130s, yes we have new blackhawk helicopters coming in, yes we’re going to have new helitack crews,” Newsom said.

The package also includes multi-year funding on projects meant to keep California resilient to wildfires and droughts, plus CalFire grants to small land owners, funds for home hardening, urban greening and forestry, and shovel ready projects - including $12 million for the San Diego River Conservancy for wildfire related investments.

Newsom says, however, that the state can only do so much, noting record breaking heat last august sparked 560 wildfires at the same time.

The state also recently allocated an additional $80 million dollars to CalFire. In San Diego, that will bring in an additional 100 to 120 firefighters for this fire season.