In an effort to ease the recent wildfire spread in Northern California, the White House approved California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request Aug. 22 for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, which will aid the state’s response to wildfires and support afflicted residents.
The declaration will help Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo county residents in a variety of ways, including crisis counseling, legal services and housing and unemployment assistance, according to an Aug. 22 press release from Newsom’s office. The declaration also grants federal assistance, which will help state, tribal and local governments fund emergency response, recovery and protective measures.
California is currently facing two of the largest fires in history, with 600 fires ignited within the past week largely due to lightning strikes, according to the press release.
Berkeley firefighters are currently deployed at two of the fires that are burning in Northern California, according to Berkeley Fire Department spokesperson Keith May. Both of these fires have had positive alleviation efforts with some containment improvements, according to May.
“This is obviously a bad year for wildfires in California and community members need to stay guard against those activities that could spark a fire,” May said in an email. “We encourage everyone in Berkeley to sign-up for AC Alert and be prepared to evacuate should a fire threaten the Berkeley community.”
Through the past year and a half, California has taken action and made investments to strengthen wildfire preparedness and response, according to the press release. In May, Cal Fire completed its emergency fuels management projects, which made 90,000 acres more resilient to wildfires and in turn protected 200 vulnerable communities, according to the press release.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, California is still prepared to face the threats of wildfire, according to Newsom.
To help the fight against wildfires, Newsom has recently upgraded the Cal Fire air fleet with Firehawk helicopters and airplanes. The state also instituted an Innovation Procurement Sprint to establish technology that will position fire detection cameras across California, according to the press release.
“California is better prepared against the threat of wildfire today than at any time in our history. Even in a challenging budget climate, we have undertaken major action and made significant investments to fortify our state and help fight increasingly severe wildfires,” Newsom said in a July press release.