UPDATE 9/1, 4:59 p.m. ET: California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law (AB 2147) on Friday that will clear the records of prison inmates who are helping to fight fires, making it so that they now have a chance of becoming professional firefighters when they are freed. People have been convicted of violent offenses such as rape and will not have their records expunged, NBC News reports. There are around 3,700 incarcerated people that help fight fires. Out of that number, 2,600 are approved to work fire lines.
CA’s inmate firefighter program is decades-old and has long needed reform.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 11, 2020
Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter.
Today, I signed #AB2147 that will fix that. pic.twitter.com/15GJ7Gijt7
BREAKING: Gov. Newsom signs law allowing inmate firefighters in California to have records expunged, clearing the way for them to become professional firefighters once they are released from prison.— Ashley Zavala (@ZavalaA) September 11, 2020
Thank you to all of our firefighters and first responders, including our incarcerated men and women fighting the current California wildfires.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 28, 2020
Human rights are everyone’s rights.
Create a pathway for former inmates who successfully completed fire camp while incarcerated. pic.twitter.com/U0j6TsfKBL
Over 3.1 million acres have burned in Califrnonia due to the multiple wildfires that are currently raging across the state. 19 people have died, according to Cal Fire.
See original story below.
While most of the world is focusing on the coronavirus pandemic, residents across Northern California have another big issue to worry about. The Lake County Record-Bee reports that the wildfires in the state have particuarly impacted Northern California, spreading through every county in the Bay Area except for San Francisco. As recently as Wednesday there was 250,000 acres burning across the Bay Area, and this comes as the state struggles to find enough firefighters.
"There’s not even close to enough equipment here," said Scotts Valley firefighter Jeff McNeil on Wednesday. "The state is on fire. We're stretched very thin." The current size of the fire is equivalent to eight times the size of San Francisco, and has left thousands of people to evacuate their homes. In addition, 33 firefighters have been injured fighting the flames, while at least one person has died.
Cal Fire has indicated that the wildfires were particularly worsened with the arrival of Sunday's excessive lightning storm, which resulted in over 10,800 strikes. The fires have continued to burn ever since the weekend and has been worsened by the triple-digit temperatures and low humidity in the region.
Timelapse footage captured a severe tropical storm that battered parts of northern California, as lightning illuminated the sky over Pacifica and officials issued a red flag fire warning. https://t.co/99IKWmmAyG pic.twitter.com/WGm8LZ9dxj— ABC News (@ABC) August 19, 2020
“My recommendation is that all the citizens in California be ready to go if there is a wildfire,” said Lynnette Round of Cal Fire on Wednesday. “Residents have to have their bags packed up with your nose facing out your driveway so you can leave quickly. Everybody should be ready to go, especially if you’re in a wildfire area.” Some experts have even given up naming the fires, since there are now too many to do so.
These LNU Lightning Complex Fire photos by the @AP's Noah Berger are terrifying. Here's the @latimes story on the fires raging in Northern California: https://t.co/cmvFo9MNZd pic.twitter.com/510xr1R9sk— Daniel Miller (@DanielNMiller) August 20, 2020
"We’ve requested 375 fire engines from out of state this morning," added Round. "Originally we had asked for 125. Now we asked for an additional 250. We definitely need the help." Last month, the Sacramento Bee reported that the coronavirus pandemic had resulted in a low number of inmate fire crews that would have otherwise been utilized to battle the wildfires.
"We are experiencing fires the likes of which we haven’t seen in many, many years," said Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday. He added, though, that while many of the fires have thus far been in more remote locations, residents and authorities will need to "maintain vigilance." It's worth noting that the combination of heat waves, rolling blackouts, wildfires, and the coronavirus pandemic have also seen evacuation shelters hit hard.