‘California's Burning:' Gov. Jerry Brown on Wildfires, Drought, Climate Change

The Rocky Fire, which has charred 69,600 acres, is 40 percent contained.

Gov. Jerry Brown used a visit to the site of California's largest wildfire to make a public plea about climate change, the four-year drought and their effect on fighting blazes statewide.

"California's burning," Brown told a bank of reporters at Cowboy Camp near Highway 20, in Lake County, where the Rocky Fire has been burning for eight days. "What the hell are you going to do about it?"

Brown was answering a reporter's rhetorical question about what he would tell presidential candidates regarding climate change, which Brown referenced repeatedly.

"The annual temperatures are growing," he said. "And the drought has made everything drier."

Brown did acknowledge that a wet El Nino season may be forthcoming this winter, but he mostly focused on the trouble California is in because of hot, dry conditions. He said that the state has spent $200 million more than it usually does in the last two years on firefighting efforts.

Brown declared a state of emergency on July 31 for California, as nearly two dozen wildfires are blazing across the state. The proclamation frees up funds to help firefighters and those who need disaster relief funds.

The governor was trying to pitch himself to the public as the state's top leader who cares about the changing environment. "Climate change won't wait for politicians," he said, adding that the drought will require an "energy revolution."

But even Brown, who often speaks of the consequences of not acting to curb climate change, has come under fire, especially from progressive groups, for not doing enough to crack down on the oil industry. Two years ago, he signed a bill to expand fracking. And the East Bay Express noted that at the time, he had taken $2.5 million in contributions from the oil and natural gas industry. 

Brown's comments came as Cal Fire crews were able to contain 40 percent of the Rocky Fire, which has now burned 69,600 acres. 

 A total of 86 structures – 43 of which were homes – were destroyed in the fire, and on Thursday, Cal Fire said 6,500 structures remained threatened – 4,000 less than the day before.

Cal Fire officials said they hoped to contain the fire by Aug. 10.

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