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California facing COVID-19 surge amid peak fire season

So far the state has seen 4,112 wildfire incidents this calendar year, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday, calling it a significant increase from 2019.

The number of acreage burned, however, remains below average, he said, adding that the fires have averaged just 6.6 acres.

The rising number of wildfire incidents comes as alongside surging numbers of the coronavirus. On Wednesday, California reported more than 8,500 new infections. By Thursday, Newsom said the positive rates for the virus over a two-week and one-week period was at 7.3%, adding that the state was also losing an average of 73 lives a day to the coronavirus.

He made the remarks from an air force base in northern California in front of a brand new CalFire Blackhawk helicopter, which his Twitter account said holds three times more water and is 14% faster than CalFire’s Huey helicopters.

CalFire chief Thom Porter said being in peak season meant worsening conditions.

“The fires aren’t going to go out as the sun goes down. They’re going to start burning through the night. They’re going to start burning into the chaparral or brush-covered landscape. They’re going to start burning into the forest. This is the time of year fires start to get bigger and more difficult to control,” Porter said.

Porter also pleaded with Californians to wear a mask, saying that it will keep residents safe from spreading the virus among themselves and among firefighters and first responders during the fire season.

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