(KERO) — Last year in California, more than 4 million acres were burned, making 2020 the largest wildfire season in the state's history. And state officials say 2021 is already on track to be another bad season.
What working against us? So far this winter, it’s been our dry weather.
“We’re hotter, earlier. We’re already warm, we’re already in the 80s, 90s, and we’re only in April, so we’re drying out quickly," said Battalion Chief Mike Walkley of the Bakersfield Fire Department.
Not only was 2020 the largest fire season state-wide, but it also saw the largest single fire, the Creek Fire, burning 280,000 acres in Fresno and Madera Counties.
With the current dry weather, and the Creek Fire fresh on his mind, state officials announced $536 million in funds to go toward state-wide firefighting efforts, which could be signed by the governor as soon as Monday.
“We are not suggesting one size fits all solutions to building our wildfire resilience," said California Sec. of Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot at a Thursday news briefing at Shaver Lake, where the funding was announced.
Officials say the money will go toward identifying and completing priority projects in regions across the state. This could include things like hiring more seasonal firefighters.
“Hundreds of seasonals, more aircraft, funding more positions, looks like they're working on more project work, prior to fire season, maybe burning off some areas," Walkley said.
Both the Kern County and Bakersfield fire departments say they haven’t heard if, or how much money could come their way. But still, both agencies are optimistic about the major investment in wildfire prevention across the state.
“We just see it from the Kern County Fire Department perspective as there’s potential. There’s a potential that some of those funds could come to Kern County," said department spokesman Andrew Freeborn.
“We need to do more on forest management, vegetation management, prescribed burns," Gov. Gavin Newsom said at Thursday's presser.
KCFD told 23ABC that work like this is already being done in areas like Pine Mountain Club, Bodfish, and Tehachapi, among others. Officials saying more funds could only serve to bolster existing projects, and perhaps identify new ones.
“So this money is going to be epic, but is that the answer? That’s not the only answer, but it’s a good answer and a good start," Walkley said.
Fire officials say the community also plays a big part in preventing wildfire destruction. If your home is in a wildfire-prone area, clearing all vegetation up to 100 feet away drastically decreases the risk of damage.