On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to high temperatures and over two dozen separate wildfires currently burning across the state.
Newsom’s declaration, which will give California out-of-state funding to help combat wildfires and to assist electricity providers in rolling blackout affected areas, also focused on evacuation assistance from fires in Napa, Nevada, and Monterey counties
“We are deploying every resource available to keep communities safe as California battles fires across the state during these extreme conditions,” said Governor Newsom in a Tuesday press release. “California and its federal and local partners are working in lockstep to meet the challenge and remain vigilant in the face of continued dangerous weather conditions.”
Governor Newsom’s office also sent out a tweet clarifying the declaration, saying “Governor Gavin Newsom today declared a statewide emergency to help ensure the availability of vital resources to combat fires burning across the state, which have been exacerbated by the effects of the historic West Coast heat wave & sustained high winds.”
Governor @GavinNewsom today declared a statewide emergency to help ensure the availability of vital resources to combat fires burning across the state, which have been exacerbated by the effects of the historic West Coast heat wave & sustained high winds. https://t.co/29FT9lLd6p
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) August 18, 2020
While fires had been raging across the state for several weeks, including the large Lake Fire outside of Los Angeles, they had been seen more as isolated until very recently.
“The heat wave is helping keep many of these fires alive,” said former PI wildfire fireman Victor Gabarra. “I had worked during heat waves before, and any water or coolant you put down only evaporates faster. It keeps temperatures up and fire actually starts to change color a little bit in high heat.
“You also have firemen dropping off more to the heat. A lot of people getting heat stroke since they’re caught between two temperatures of being over 100 degrees high. They said Death Valley hit 130 the other day. If that temperature was around where firemen were, well, we would be looking at deaths. It’s little wonder that the Governor declared an emergency.”
Before Tuesday’s state of emergency declaration, Governor Newsom had also secured Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants to help stop some of the wildfires. However funding and increased megawattage had not been given to power companies, a decision which has brought rolling blackouts to many areas across the state. The situation was so dire on Tuesday that the power grid reached a Stage 2 Alert, warning that rotating power outages are “imminent.”
Many, including President Donald Trump, blamed California leaders for the outages and criticized them for allowing the widespread power outages to happen.
“In California, Democrats have intentionally implemented rolling blackouts — forcing Americans in the dark,” said President Trump in a tweet. “Democrats are unable to keep up with energy demand.”
In California, Democrats have intentionally implemented rolling blackouts — forcing Americans in the dark. Democrats are unable to keep up with energy demand…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2020
It is not yet known when the state of emergency will end, but due to temperature highs across the state still being above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and fires still blazing in Northern and Southern California, it is not expected to end for at least a week.