fire season

California Agencies Prepare to Help Local Fire Departments This Fire Season

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California authorities are taking action to prepare for what could be a historically bad fire season.

State senator Alex Padilla and several state agencies met to discuss how to streamline fire fights so that local agencies and officials can respond, and help communities recover from wildfire emergencies.

"I'm determined to continue to use all the tools in our belt to prevent wildfires when we can put them out quickly when possible and help communities recover from wildfire emergencies," Sen. Padilla said.

His hope is dependent on three bills.

One of them - the Fire Act - would direct FEMA to pre-deploy resources during high-risk red flag warnings, just like they do ahead of tornadoes and hurricanes.

"We know that last year's fire season was the worst in state's history and sadly its not an outlier," Sen. Padilla said. "I think we said the same the year before that and the same before that.”

This year's fire season is well underway with Cal Fire already responding to more than 2,300 fires that have already burned 11,000 acres so far.

The California Office of Emergency Services says is working closer than ever with all fire and management agencies to ensure an equal response statewide.

"We are also leveraging new technology as a part of our fire mutual aid system and in partnership with Cal Fire," said Mark Ghuilarducci with Cal OES.

Other changes expected this year include upgrades to the so-called smoke spotter system, which tells communities how safe their air is.

Millions of dollars for new programs and grants will go towards building community resilience and helping disproportionately impacted communities, but local agencies say there are still local complexities that are getting overlooks.

"We need to make sure there are mechanisms and pathways up and down the state," said Brian Helmick, Fire Chief with East Contra Costa Fire Protection District. "We need to find a way to get those funds from the state level all the way down to the local level."

Contra Costa County's Fire Chief isn't alone.

Other Bay Area agencies say the programs and grants are great help, but they are limited. Not every fire agency gets a slice of that funding, yet every fire station has its unique needs.

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