Calif. governor declares "Wildfire Awareness Week"

11:07, May 03, 2011      

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As the fire season is drawing near, California Governor Jerry Brown on Monday issued a proclamation declaring May 1-7, 2011, as "Wildfire Awareness Week" in the state.

It is necessary to raise Californians' awarness for wildfires as living in California "implies a coexistence with the serious threat of wildfire", the governor said.

"Wildfire Awareness Week is an important opportunity for California's communities and fire service agencies to reduce the risk of wildfire and increase public safety and awareness through education on fire safety, preparation and prevention," Brown said.

In California, every year has the potential for large, damaging fires to occur simply due to its Mediterranean climate, he said.

Between 5,000 and 8,000 wildfires plague California each year, destroying property, taking lives and damaging the state's valuable watershed and precious natural resources, Brown said.

"All Californians who live, work and recreate in our state must recognize the high risk of wildfire and must take every precaution to protect themselves, their property, and our natural resources," Brown said.

"Improving a home's resistance to wildfire and instituting a plan to leave early in a safe manner can dramatically increase the safety and survivability of the public and emergency personnel."

California has 85 million acres (about 34 million hectares) of wildland that serve as habitat for a diverse array of wildlife and plants and which contribute millions of dollars to the state economy through commercial timber harvesting, and provide residents and visitors unparalleled opportunities for recreation and enjoyment of nature.

Although heavy rain and snow fell in many parts of the state in the winter of 2010 and spring of 2011, California continues to recover from the effects of consecutive years of severe drought during the last decade, said the governor.

During the last five years, an annual average of 7,000 wildfires burned over 900,000 acres (about 364,500 hectares) of California's timber and grasslands, releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere destroying forests, damaging habitat, and affecting biodiversity.

The risk of large wildfires that threaten or take lives and destroy homes, is predicted to rise by over the next several decades as a result of climate change, experts say.

California fires and their smoke pose a number of health risks, including serious respiratory ailments, reaching far beyond the wildfire boundaries and can irritate human respiratory systems and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Source: Xinhua
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