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Gov. Gavin Newsom aid on Wednesday that California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has not blunted efforts to prepare for what is expected to be an active wildfire season, emphasizing the state’s effort to reduce or prevent power shutoffs by utilities when fires are a major threat.

Newsom said the California Public Utilities Commission is creating a 106-person wildfire safety division to monitor the state’s investor-owned utilities to ensure they abide by requirements to modernize their electrical systems and transmission lines to reduce the risk of igniting a wildfire. The governor also noted that new wildfire prevention efforts would be accounted for in his revised state spending plan to be presented Thursday.

“I want folks to know that we have been preparing for the upcoming wildfire season, and we’re not stepping back our efforts. We’re in fact stepping them up,” Newsom said during a news conference at the Cameron Park Fire Department just outside of Sacramento. “The budget I will announce tomorrow, we’ll include enhancements for wildfire preparation and preparedness across the board, as well as suppression strategies and opportunities to be more resilient in our recovery strategies.”

This year already has been a bad wildfire year for California. Newsom said there’s been a 60% increase in fires from January to May 10 compared with the same period last year.

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