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Governor Brown orders control burns and forest thinning ahead of fire season

He’s asked the state to pour roughly $100 million more into fire prevention

Blue Cut Fire Rages Through 30,000 Acres In Southern California Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

With great swaths of both Northern and Southern California still reeling from hellish 2017 wildfires, California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order and new budget plan mandating control burns and forest thinning.

In an executive order issued Thursday, Brown framed fire prevention as a larger environmental effort to combat climate change, directing state agencies to “protect our forests and ensure they absorb carbon to the maximum degree.”

The order is mostly a series of bureaucratic directives telling state offices to expedite certain work, including:

- Doubling the land actively managed through vegetation thinning, controlled fires and reforestation from 250,000 acres to 500,000 acres.

- Training and certification programs to help promote forest health through prescribed burning.

- Boosting education and outreach to landowners on the most effective ways to reduce vegetation and other forest-fire fuel sources on private lands.

Gov. Brown followed up with a revision to the proposed state budget Friday putting another $96 million toward forest management.

The U.S. Forest Service and the State Department of Forestry both encouraged more “prescribed burns” of dead and overgrown vegetation near population centers at the end of 2017.

Photo by welcomia/Shutterstock

Although critics were hot to blame an alleged dearth of planned burning for the 2017 wildfires, California historian Steven Pyne cautioned the LA Times last year that control burns are just one of what he says are neglected fire safeguards, including “[developing state] urban fire services in parity with land management agencies” and “applying citywide codes and zoning requirements to rural subdivisions.”

The National Interagency Fire Center’s predictive services forecasts growing threat of fires statewide as summer comes on:

Of concern is the preexisting grass crop from 2017 and the new growth which will cure by July across California, the Great Basin, and Oregon. Higher, timbered elevations in these areas will become a concern by July as the past winter’s below average snowpack melts allowing for the high elevation fuels to become dry enough to support fire activity.