Story at a glance:
- California is spending $536 million to prepare for the upcoming fire season.
- Some argue the more than a half-a-billion dollar emergency funding isn’t enough.
- Climate change is likely contributing to worse fire seasons, experts say.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has approved a more than a half-a-billion dollar emergency funding plan to prepare for a coming fire season set to be one of the state's worst.
California, already experiencing a drought concern, needs pre-wildfire relief spending as the state already had its worst firestorm last year, The Guardian reported.
The state is expected to allocate $536 million to hire more firefighters, improve forest management efforts, thin out fire-fueling vegetation and make homes more fire-resistant.
In the initiative, $25 million will be set aside for food for low-income homeowners and to provide updates and renovations needed to fireproof their homes.
However, experts say half a billion-dollar spending is not enough.
"We are in a very deep hole that we're gonna have to dig ourselves out of," said Chris Field, climate scientist at Stanford University.
In response to critics, Newsom compared the $536 million plan to a downpayment.
“This is a down payment, not the totality of our efforts,” Newsom said at a press conference in Butte County, which has been devastated by recent fires – including 2018’s Camp fire. “We’re investing a historic amount of money in preparation of this year’s fire season.”
Even before the fire season approaches, so far this year in California, more than 1,160 fires burned 3,304 acres across the state. In the past five years, about 550 acres burned on average over that same time period.
Rising temperatures, droughts and heat waves linked to climate change are likely contributing to California’s fire woes, experts warn. Much of the vegetation in the state is already dry, priming the risk for fires.
Last year, the state had five of the largest fires in its history, and the lack of rain and a heat wave only made the situation more chaotic.
"We're definitely looking at a serious challenge ahead," Field said.
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