California prepares for more wildfires as coronavirus challenges budget

FILE PHOTO: Flames grow at a wildfire dubbed the Cave Fire, burning in the hills of Santa Barbara, California, U.S., November 26, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California has had 60% more wildfires so far in 2020 than last year because of drier weather, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday, and he promised increased funding for firefighting even as the state’s budget faces a $54 billion hit from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are mindful of the unavoidable anxiety that this time of year presents to people,” said Newsom, referring to the beginning of California’s dry, wildfire-prone late spring and summer. “We have been prepping for this upcoming wildfire season and we are not stepping back our efforts.”

Newsom, who is set to release a dramatic revision of his proposed state budget on Thursday, said he did have to trim parts of the budgets for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, or CalFire, and the state Office of Emergency Services. But he said funding for first responders would increase by $170 million.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler

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