Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses California fires, West Coast heat wave and COVID-19 response

Gov. Gavin Newsom covered several pressing topics during his Wednesday press conference, including the sweltering heat and wildfires raging across California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom covered several pressing topics during his Wednesday press conference, including the sweltering heat and wildfires raging across California.

The heat has placed extra stress on California's power grid, and led to rolling blackouts Friday and Saturday. The governor said Wednesday night looked like the "last challenging night" of the week. Wednesday's Flex Alert will take effect an hour earlier in hopes of avoiding rolling blackouts, with Californians urged to conserve energy between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. to avoid major blackouts.

In his press conference Monday, Newsom admitted the state wasn't adequately prepared to deal with the record heat wave, and the resulting rolling blackouts.

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The California ISO, which operates the state power grid, declared a Stage 2 Emergency Tuesday, but no forced outages were necessary. Wednesday's Flex Alert will take effect an hour earlier to hopefully avoid rolling blackouts.


"Let me just make this crystal clear: We failed to predict and plan for these shortages and that is unacceptable," the governor said at the time.

Since Friday, the governor said the state has taken the following actions to reduce energy usage:

  • Newsom signed an "emergency proclamation to free up energy capacity" and therefore reduce the need for rolling blackouts. The move allows "energy users and utilities to use backup energy sources to relieve pressure on the grid during peak times during the energy emergency."
  • Large energy users are shifting to back-up power between peak hours of 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Utilities are using power they have stored for PSPS
  • Working with ports to reduce consumption from the grid while ships are at port
  • Working with major consumers to reduce energy usage


"Even with all of that, we are likely to fall short," Newsom said. "I am not pleased with what's happened. I take a backseat to no one."

Newsom also said this year has brought a "very active" fire season, with over 2,500 more blazes burning across the state than this time last year. As of Aug. 18, there were 6,754 active wildfires, and 4,007 as of Aug. 18, 2019.

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The Hennessey Fire has devastated the English Hills community in Vacaville, burning dozens of homes as evacuation orders were expanded in Solano County.


He said there were 367 known fires burning in the state, and 23 major wildfire complexes. While the conditions are challenging, Newsom said the state had prepared early by hiring hundreds of seasonal firefighters and hand crews.

The governor also announced Placer County in Northern California was removed from the COVID-19 watch list, after San Diego was taken off Tuesday. Newsom added that San Francisco will likely come off the list on Thursday.

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