Jul 3, 2024

How California is keeping communities safe from wildfire

What you need to know: As California faces increased wildfire activity this year, the state is leveraging new aerial and technological capabilities to protect communities. 

SACRAMENTO – With significantly more wildfire activity at this point in the year than in recent years, Governor Gavin Newsom joined fire officials this week to highlight all the ways California is ready for wildfire.

This is the first full fire season that California is utilizing an expanded aerial fleet and new technology. The state continues to expand its aerial firefighting force, which is the largest in the world. California also continues to leverage new technologies to support its firefighting capabilities.

As part of the Governor’s California Climate Commitment, the recently signed 2024 budget agreement maintains $2.6 billion over seven years, from 2021-22 through 2027-28, to protect Californians from wildfires and improve forest health. This is in addition to $200 million per year for healthy forest and fire prevention programs, including prescribed fire and other fuel reduction projects.

Earlier today, Governor Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency in Butte County to support the response to the Thompson Fire, which has burned more than 3,500 acres and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. CAL FIRE has deployed some of the new assets, including the night-flying Firehawk helicopters to help fight the Thompson Fire.

We’re seeing much more wildfire activity so far this year than we have in recent years. Fortunately, California is ready.

With the largest aerial firefighting force in the world and new technology backed by AI, we’re protecting communities in ways never done before.

Governor Gavin Newsom

The Governor and state officials are also urging Californians to take this week’s dangerous heat wave seriously – with temperatures above 110 degrees in many areas of the state. 

Visit ready.ca.gov for resources and safety tips on wildfire, heat and other natural disasters.  

Below is a recap of the ways California is keeping communities safe from wildfire.

New aircraft, night-flying capabilities, and expanded drone deployment

  • Expansion of helitack bases
    • Five additional helitack bases have completed training and qualifications for night flying, bringing the total to eight bases equipped for night operations. 
    • Night-flying aircraft have been activated in response to many wildfires this year.
  • Contracted aircraft add to CAL FIRE’s permanent fleet of over 60 aircraft
    • 20 additional helicopters and 4 airplanes, including five night-flying capable helicopters.
  • Drone deployment
    • CAL FIRE currently operates 159 unmanned aerial systems, representing a doubling in CAL FIRE’s use of UAS for aerial ignition, support of prescribed burns, and wildfire containment.
  • Ongoing transfer and outfitting of seven C-130 aircraft from the federal government

Harnessing recent innovations 

  • Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) to map wildfire info in real-time.
  • Tecnosylva Wildfire Projection Tool to predict wildfire spread.
  • Partnership with Department of Defense, using satellites to map wildfires.
  • LiDAR Investments to make detailed, 3-D maps of more than 30 million acres of topography and vegetation in high-risk areas.
  • Wildfire Threat Intelligence Center (WFTIC), serving as California’s integrated hub for wildfire and weather intelligence.

Giving every Californian access to real-time wildfire intelligence

  • A new and improved fire.ca.gov website gets information to Californians in real time
    • CAL FIRE’s redesigned website now provides more essential information, faster– including total emergency response, wildfires, acres burned, fatalities, and structure damage.
    • Integration of ALERTCalifornia Cameras for anyone to view, and real-time aircraft tracking.
    • Comprehensive incident map of fires over 10 acres, in real-time.

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