FOLSOM, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom held his daily briefing from a Cal Fire station outside Sacramento Wednesday, sharing how disaster preparations are continuing despite the coronavirus’ drain on money and resources.
Newsom, who stood in front of fire engines, flanked by emergency personnel from Cameron Park in El Dorado County, said the state will be well-equipped for fire season, with plans for new resources pushing ahead even in a drastically revised state budget.
Cal Fire will still receive 26 new fire engines and 12 Black Hawk helicopters, which the governor said were simply too essential to lose in the fight against destructive, deadly wildfires. The state will work on 450,000 acres of forest management in 2020, and is continuing to pressure public utilities such as PG&E to do more to prevent their equipment from causing blazes.
The state’s Office of Emergency Services director also spoke Wednesday, sharing that evacuations in a post-coronavirus state will look different, including plans to sort sick and healthy evacuees into separate shelters. Evacuations may come earlier and more often, officials warned, so that the state has more time to sort through the added complications.
“You gotta walk and chew gum at the same time,” Newsom said, in reference to the balancing act of preparing for another potentially devastating wildfire season and the present threat of COVID-19.
Newsom’s announcement comes at a time the state is facing a projected budget shortfall of $54 billion — a staggering figure demonstrating the economic ramifications of COVID-19 and the state’s stay-at-home order.
The governor and other officials have warned that deep cuts to state programs will likely be necessary during California’s economic recovery, but Wednesday’s announcement implied that emergency services will not bear the brunt of that loss.
Newsom’s revised economic forecast for the state will be released Thursday.