A firefighter scrambles to stop the Pawnee fire as it spots across Highway 20 near Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Sunday, July 1, 2018.

AP Photo/Noah Berger

Gov. Newsom Declares State of Emergency Over Fire Dangers

Holly Quan
March 22, 2019 - 2:13 pm

In a rare move, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday declared a statewide emergency due the state's string of wildfires, clearing the way for dozens of tree-trimming projects primarily in Northern and Central California.

Bay Area cities like Orinda, Lafayette and Woodside are on the list for vegetation and forest clearing. There's virtually a year-round risk of wildfires, making projects like these more urgent. 

The plan is to get as many of the priority areas cleared before this fall when fire season really erupts. That means an 11-mile stretch from Orinda to Lafayette, forests along Kings Mountain Road in Woodside, and over 6,800 acres in Big Sur are targeted for clearing. 

"Some of these projects quite literally, not figuratively, could take two years to get done," Newsom said, who made the declaration in Middletown, which was badly burned by the 2015 Valley Fire. "But we could get them done in the next two months."

Related: Trump Orders FEMA To Cut Funding To California Because Of Forest Fires

Years of drought and the proliferation of insects have made those areas ripe for catastrophic destruction, so Newsom wants to expedite those projects with the emergency declaration.

This means there's no need for environmental review or competitive bidding to get the work done,  

Some environmental groups worry the state will cut down too many trees. They say urging residents to create defensible space and building with more fire resistant materials would be a better idea.

Following the Camp Fire last year, the most destructive fire in the state to date, President Trump criticized California for not logging enough, making our wildfire problem worse.