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Gavin Newsom to join President Biden in second White House meeting on Western wildfires

Isabella Bloom, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Gov. Gavin Newsom and six other governors on Friday to discuss efforts to prevent 2021 wildfires, according to White House officials.

California so far has had 5,671 wildfires in 2021. The still-burning Dixie Fire in Butte, Plumas and Tehama counties has already destroyed over 220,000 acres, according to Cal Fire.

Biden and Harris on Friday will hear from the governors of California, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho and Minnesota. The meeting comes after 22 extreme weather and climate-related disasters caused some $95 billion in damages in 2020, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It's Biden second meeting this summer with Western governors on wildfires. He spoke with them on June 30, when he announced plans to raise pay for U.S. Forest Service firefighters.

The bipartisan infrastructure deal Biden negotiated with U.S. senators includes new funding to help communities for natural disasters, setting aside a $50 billion investment in climate change and cybersecurity. The funding will also go toward drought and flood prevention and infrastructure resiliency against extreme weather conditions.

The Biden administration also plans to establish two new working groups as part of the National Climate Task Force's efforts to confront wildfire and extreme heat incidents.

 

The Wildfire Resilience Interagency Working Group, co-chaired by Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, will manage long-term wildfire resilience strategies such as prescribed fires and other land management approaches.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Dr. Richard Spinrad and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan will co-chair the Extreme Heat Interagency Working Group. It's being asked to employ health, scientific and environmental resources to address extreme heat conditions in vulnerable communities. This follows record-breaking heat temperatures in Portland, Seattle and Death Valley this summer.

The Drought Interagency Working Group, established in April, also focuses on drought resiliency in hard-hit communities.

The EPA has also recently updated its AirNow mobile app to provide the public with information on air quality and fire updates. The app's fire and smoke map is also available online.

(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.