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Report: California governor overstated fire prevention work

Capital Public Radio's investigation found state fire officials treated less than 18 of the 140 square miles Newsom touted as priority projects in 2019.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Capital Public Radio investigation says California Gov. Gavin Newsom vastly overstated wildfire prevention work completed by his administration.

The radio station reported Wednesday that state fire officials treated less than 18 of the 140 square miles Newsom touted as priority projects in 2019. The report also says the state's fuel reduction efforts and wildfire prevention funding fell in 2020. On his first full day as governor, Newsom announced executive actions to improve the state's response to wildfires and other emergencies.

The governor's office did not respond to requests for comment. 

The state's top fire official says he takes responsibility for the governor sharing inaccurate information. 

Following the publishing of the investigation, Assemblymember Vince Fong, R-Kern County, called for a legislative oversight hearing to hold the governor and Cal Fire accountable. 

"Action - not performative press conferences - needs to be taken now to prevent another devastating wildfire season," Fong said in his press release. 

Newsom took office in 2019, months after the deadliest fire in state history and as the state sees drier and hotter weather. 

Senator Jim Nielsen, who represents the 4th district, including Paradise, reacted to the story saying, "It is clear that the Newsom administration has not maintained the prioritization of managing our forests and wildlands.”

He said he's seen the results first hand.

“In terms of what is actually happening in the field, it’s pretty clear to those of us who represent these areas that the vigilance and the focus and the prioritization has indeed slowed down.”

Nielsen also said the pandemic is not an excuse for cutting back the money dedicated to fire prevention efforts.

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