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Newsom Lays Out Firefighting Strategy As Wildfire Season Heats Up

BOULDER CREEK (KPIX 5) -- With the peak of wildfire season still ahead, Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged more money and more manpower, along with a shift in strategy in a visit to the fire-ravaged Santa Cruz Mountains on Tuesday.

Newsom visited Big Basin State Park in the heart of the more than 85,000 acres burned and still blackened a year after the CZU wildfire tore through the mountains.

"We are coming up against the smash mouth realities. The hot is getting a lot hotter, dry is getting dryer, wet is getting wetter. And all the impacts that's having all across the globe," Newsom said.

Alongside EPA administrator Michael Regan, Newsom toured the state park which faces years of rebuilding after last year's fire destroyed its headquarters and several other buildings.

Newsom Big Basin CZU
Gov. Gavin Newsom visits Big Basin State Park with EPA administrator Michael Regan (left) on August 17, 2021. (CBS)

Newsom had a sobering message linking the growing threat of climate change to the state's terrible track record with wildfires over the last several years.

"We're experiencing once again the intensity of another year of drought. We're struggling right now with over ten large-scale wildfires," Newsom told reporters.

The governor promised to dedicate more money and manpower to wildfire response statewide. He also reiterated that the state is moving away from a wait-and-see approach to fire management even on federal land.

"You don't have to read a report. You can believe you own eyes. People are living and breathing the effects of climate change. President Biden is ramping up the intensity in which the federal government is responding to wildfires," said Regan, the EPA administrator.

Unlike the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire said it has long followed an aggressive fire suppression policy.

"Cal Fire's policy has always been to keep all fires at 10 acres or less. So we do everything we can to jump on those incidents quickly and try to mitigate them," said Cal Fire Capt. Eric. Heckley.

That policy will likely serve the community well in a dry year which may yet be a devastating wildfire season for the Bay Area.

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