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California wildfire risk increasing as Newsom pushes to double firefighting budget to $2 billion

Firefighters across the state right now are gearing up for another devastating year of wildfires.

Last year was California's most destructive on record with more than 4 million acres burned.

"We’re paying the price for years and years of drought and let's be honest, fire seasons are getting longer, hotter and drier," said Jon Heggie, a CalFire battalion chief.

California's drought is only intensifying fire conditions, and fire crews say this year could be worse.

"We had a very dry winter our fuels are drier at this point compared to last year, and our fire activity is much more increased this year compared to where we were last year," Heggie said. "Really we're looking at a busier fire season as of right now."

Governor Newsom Monday proposed doubling doubling the states' firefighting budget from $1 billion to $2 billion, to pay for everything from equipment to prevention.

"It shows the urgency of the moment, of our efforts as we once again prepare for wildfire season here in California," Newsom said. "None of us are naive about the challenges our state faces."

Crews say clearing out brushy fuels will aid in the fight, but they're also asking the public to clear fuels around their homes – leaving a defensible space. "If we can do that and work together, we're going to have a much better outcome as we get into the heart of fire season," Heggie said.

But Some say here in SoCal, fire season now reaches all year round. "It’s become a fire year instead of a fire season, so in Southern California we burn all year long," said CalFire Battalion Chief Jesse Park.

Firefighters said they could use the extra staffing, and other positive changes from the newly proposed budget.

"They’re brining on firefighters earlier, increasing the amount of crews; they've increased the size and capability of our helicopter in the area," Park said.

Newsom's $2 billion plan must first be approved by the state legislature.

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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