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Newsom: California 'Deploying Every Resource' To Battle Historic Wildfires

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom used his Monday press briefing to laud California's first responders in battling the historic series of wildfires and said the state was deploying every resource available to fight the fires, including mutual aid from other states.

To highlight the magnitude of the current wildfire situation, Newsom said at this time last year there were 4,292 wildfires burning some 56,000 acres. This year, there have been 7,002 wildfires to date, burning 1.4 million acres or nearly 2,200 square miles.


"We're currently battling some 625 fires across the state and you'll see in a moment a number of new fires appeared overnight. We've burned 1.2 million acres in just the last week or so," Newsom said.

At least seven people have died so far and at least 1,200 structures have burned, a number that Newsom acknowledged would likely rise.

LNU Lightning Complex Fire Burns In Napa County
A Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) equipped C-130 aircraft drops retardant ahead of the LNU Lightning Complex fire on August 20, 2020 in Healdsburg, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Overall, progress has been made in battling wildfires in both Southern and Northern California, Newsom said. Of the three major lightning complex fires burning in Northern California, Newsom said the LNU Lightning complex was 22% contained, the CZU August Lightning Complex was 13% contained and the SCU Lightning Complex was 10% contained.

Over the last 24 hours, there have been 10 additional fires after nearly 300 lightning strikes, Newsom said, noting that the nature of the lightning strikes meant that there were likely additional fires that had yet to be discovered in some remote areas of the state. However, the lightning strikes were not as bad as anticipated, despite the new fires that were started overnight.

"There are a lot of sleeper fires that we expect to discover as our reconnaissance efforts, as our aerial efforts continue, particularly as the smoke begins to clear as weather conditions change. We will be identifying additional fires throughout the state," Newsom said.

The governor said that the next week of fighting the fires would be critical as the state attempts to suppress the wildfires.

"Foundationally and fundamentally, we are deploying every resource at our disposal, every resource within the state and, as you'll see in a moment, some of the resources we've pulled from out of state into California to battle these historic wildfires," Newsom said.

Aside from the 14,000 and 2,400 engines deployed by Cal Fire, Newsom said in-state mutual aid on the fires accounted for another 2,827 firefighters and 709 engines. In addition, California has been helped by fire crews and engines from Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, Oregon, Utah and Washington, with more help en route from Montana, Newsom said.

Newsom said President Trump has authorized a presidential disaster declaration for California counties which would provide additional resources to the state and direct aid to individuals affected by the fires.

The governor also spoke about the intersection of the wildfire disaster in California with the coronavirus pandemic. The wildfires were having an impact on at least 11 COVID-19 testing sites across California, leading to a reduction over the past week in the number of tests administered, the governor said.

For people being evacuated from advancing wildfires, Newsom said COVID-19 health screenings and assessments are being done at shelters, which have mask requirements, social distancing and air purifiers.

The efforts to secure housing for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic has also paid off for fire evacuees, Newsom said. Of the 2,211 evacuees in shelters, the majority of those were not going into congregate shelters but, instead, into hotels. The governor said 1,480 evacuees were being sheltered in 31 hotels, while 731 people were being housed in congregate shelters.

As far as the pandemic itself, Newsom said the latest data show progress being made across the spectrum. While the number of deaths reported on Monday was 18, Newsom cautioned that data on Mondays often does not included all the information from the weekend. The average number of daily deaths over a 14-day period was at 128, Newsom said.

There were 4,946 new cases reported on Monday, however the 7-day average of 5,798 daily cases was continuing to trend downward.

The positivity rate of COVID-19 testing was 6.5 percent over the last 14 days, and 5.6 percent over the last 7 days, Newsom said. There is a 20% decrease in hospitalizations over 14-day period, and a 19% decrease in ICU admissions, two more encouraging trends, Newsom said.

In addition, the number of counties on the state's monitoring list declined from 42 last week to 35 on Monday, with Calaveras, Mono, Napa, Orange and Sierra being the latest counties to get off the list.

Toward the end of his Monday presentation, Newsom again acknowledged the first responders and volunteers who have helped evacuees and expressed his disgust over reports of looting in evacuated areas.

"I am really proud and honored just to see first hand the incredible work that's being done by volunteers across the state of California by all of those selfless individuals from the American Red Cross and elsewhere that come from all over the country with their heart on their sleeve, there to take care of evacuees, take care of strangers. I want to thank the deputy sheriffs that I have spent time with that are doing extraordinary work in communities all across the state of California, particularly Northern California with the evacuations," Newsom said. "I want to, just upfront, condemn in no uncertain words how disgraceful it is, how disgusting it is, to learn about people that in some instances have been taking advantage of these evacuees by going into their homes, breaking in their homes, looting their properties. That's repugnant and I just want to thank the deputy sheriffs and local law enforcement for their outstanding job to hold these individuals to account."

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