The last two fire seasons in California have been the most deadly and destructive in the state’s history.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection: over 3 million acres burned, 28 thousand structures were damaged or destroyed and 150 people were killed, 8 of them firefighters.
To prepare for what could be another devastating year, Governor Newsom announced the state will hire nearly four hundred seasonal firefighters and purchase 13 new fire engines as part of an executive order,”We’re adding 393 new individuals on one third of all Cal Fire engines, we’re going to get a fourth member on these Cal Fire crews.”
Cal Fire Riverside County Fire Capt. Fernando Herrera says larger fires and year round fire season puts a strain on firefighters, “Guys are working 14 or 21 days on before they can get a day or two off just because of the incident activity and the demand that our firefighting forces take to control some of these fires that just rage out of control.”
Those long hours have been blamed for more injuries, higher divorce and suicide rates in the fire service.
“Besides being physically exhausted and mentally exhausted, I mean, it takes a toll on you, you’re away from your family, from your loved ones,” says Herrera, adding that more staffing will make a big difference as California enters peak fire season, “it’s not only put more boots on the ground to fight the fires but it’s also going to allow us to hopefully have a relief plan for those firefighters that are out there for so many hours and so many days on the line.”
Last month Newsom signed legislation that added $1 billion to the fire in emergency preparedness response and recovery.