Newly inaugurated California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) hit the ground running by taking aim at the state’s growing wildfire crisis from multiple angles after he was sworn in to office Monday.
Newsom spent his second day as governor in the wildfire-prone city of Colfax, where he introduced two executive orders and announced a partnership with Govs. Kate Brown (D) of Oregon and Jay Inslee (D) of Washington state demanding better wildfire support from President Donald Trump, who has threatened California with “no more Fed payments!”
“It’s not a coincidence that my first full day as governor is focused on emergency preparedness,” Newsom said as he stood alongside state fire officials Tuesday. “It’s deliberate, it reflects intentionality, and it speaks to the priority that I place on emergency preparedness, response and recovery.”
The first executive order is inspired by the tragedy in Paradise, where last fall’s deadly Camp fire took a major toll on the community’s poorer, older and more isolated residents. Newsom’s charge instructs state agencies to not only consider the science of fires ― wind patterns, fuel conditions and other indicators ― in how they approach risk management, but also what he calls “social vulnerability factors” such as poverty, functionality needs and language needs.
Newsom’s second executive order was crafted with the admission that the government isn’t always qualified to select and apply the best technological solutions for wildfires. Under this direction, state agencies will be allowed to reach out to the private sector for help solving various problems and to convene outside experts for solutions, with an initial focus on technology that improves fire detection.
As part of the West Coast governors partnership, Newsom, Brown and Inslee are calling on Trump to double his financial investment in managing federal forestlands in their three states.
Since taking office, Trump has slashed the U.S. Forest Service budget by around $2 billion ― a move experts have warned for years would put the country’s wildfire-prone states at immense risk.
But Trump does not view the risk of wildfire as one of the many complicated consequences of higher temperatures and extended periods of drought, despite climate scientists’ findings. He’s blamed the crisis on “gross mismanagement of the forests” ― a comment he tweeted while fires burned up and down California in November. He’s also insisted that “raking” would solve the problem.