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California Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

California Gov. Newsom (D) misled the public about the progress his office had made in shoring up wildfire prevention according to an investigative report by CapRadio and NPR’s California Newsroom.

Why it matters: The revelations come just as drought-stricken California gears up for a devastating fire season that could prove to be the worst on record.

The state of play: Newsom has underscored the importance of wildfire prevention since his first day in office in 2019, when he signed an executive order overhauling the state's fire prevention efforts.

  • Shortly thereafter, Cal Fire launched 35 "priority projects" to protect 200 communities especially vulnerable to wildfires.
  • In January 2020 Newsom announced that the 35 priority projects had successfully targeted 90,000 acres of land with fire prevention efforts, such as fuel breaks.

The big picture: The report states that there is "little evidence" that Newsom had accomplished these goals and had, in fact, reduced funding for wildfire prevention programs.

  • The investigation found that while Newsom claimed the priority projects successfully treated 90,000 acres, state records show the number to be 11,399—an exaggeration of 690%.
  • "But the data analyzed by CapRadio and NPR’s California Newsroom show that Cal Fire treated a small fraction of that amount, 11,399 acres, or about 13% of the amount cited by Newsom," it noted.

In 2020, Newsom cut about $150 million from Cal Fire’s wildfire prevention budget, slashing it from $355 million to $203 million.

  • California's fuel reduction output also dropped by half in 2020, the report added.
  • In 2019, the "overall amount of wildfire mitigation work carried out by Cal Fire" totalled 64,000 acres but in 2020 that figure had plunged to less than 32,000 acres.
  • The report notes that Newsom's office did not respond to a request for comment.

What's more: The head of Cal Fire, Chief Thom Porter, admitted in the report that Newsom had misrepresented his accomplishments.

  • In fact, according to Porter, California was never in the position to treat 90,000 acres in 2019.
  • “We didn't have all of the environmental clearance that we were going to need to do all of that work,” Porter said. “Nor did we have all of the agreements with landowners completely in place.”

The bottom line: "Overall, California’s response has faltered under Newsom," the report states.

Go deeper

California Gov. Newsom signs legislation making mail-in ballots permanent

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Monday making permanent a pandemic-era measure to mail ballots to all registered voters, the governor's office announced in a statement.

Why it matters: The move to make voting by mail permanent is intended to "increase access to democracy and enfranchise more voters," according to the statement.

52 mins ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."