The worst fire in California’s history may be behind it, but the risks are not.
With the nation’s longest government shutdown still ongoing, thousands of U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management employees remain furloughed, preventing these agencies from doing critical work to prepare for the next fire season or reduce existing risks.
In California specifically, forest cleanup and fuel mitigation projects have been postponed, which is essential to diminishing the threat of such fires. Training opportunities for firefighters are also affected. With more than half of the forests in California under federal control, prescribed fire is also not taking place, reports NPR.
The executive director of conservation group California Tahoe Conservancy, Patrick Wright explained that “hundreds, if not thousands, of acres could be affected if the shutdown continues for an extended period.” Already, at least 14 days of burning have been missed.
The state has already seen the impact of not taking adequate precautions to prevent wildfires. Last year’s deadly Camp Fire killed 88 people and burned more than 150,000 acres and a December lawsuit alleged that the state’s largest electric utility, PG&E, was to blame.
Now the company’s CEO Geisha Williams has resigned and PG&E faces possible bankruptcy — and potentially even criminal charges. With the company’s future in question and federal employees not at work, it remains to be seen whether the necessary preventative measures will be undertaken before California is faced with what could become another deadly fire season.