SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With wildfire season fast approaching, California fire officials are on a quest for a major multi-million-dollar funding boost to help battle the ferocious blazes.
They gathered at the state Capitol Wednesday, with state lawmakers from both houses, pleading for more money from the Governor to battle what they call a “new normal,” a year-long firefight.
“With climate change, we know the risk of wildfire is only going to intensify,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd (D -Napa).
As California wildfires grow more destructive, officials say they’re getting more desperate – for a bigger budget.
Officials say Cal Fire’s multibillion-dollar budget just isn’t enough. They’re asking for a $184 million boost. That breaks down to $84 million for new Cal Fire trucks and $100 million to modernize communication technology and mobilize crews in extreme weather before a fire even starts.
“Getting help to you the people of California in a few hours is no long good enough. In fact we can do better,” one fire official said.
Currently, the state operates with a mutual aid system.
“It’s a system of neighbor helping neighbor it is designed as a reactive system,” one fire chief explained.
Firefighters say a more proactive strategy is known as pre-positioning.
In Napa and Sonoma counties last fall, the vicious fires stretched resources to the breaking point. A call for mutual aid was issued to nearby departments, but Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner says the crews never came.
“I will tell you there was fire on three sides of me no resources to help,” he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently approved $100 million to pay for new Cal Fire helicopters. They’ll replace an aging fleet flying since the Vietnam War.
Whether the governor will consider new funding, his finance office says, is still unclear.
“The governor believes very clearly that we need to start renewing our investment in some of these firefighting equipment,” said Department of Finance spokesman H.D Palmer.
We’ll know whether the Governor will commit to new fire funding when he releases his revised budget, Friday.