2021 Year in Review


As the calendar year inches closer to 2022, it is time to reflect on another historic year for California. Aside from the usual threats of winter storms, drought, and extreme heat, among others, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) responded to numerous disasters, including multiple historic wildfires, earthquakes, and the Southern California oil spill, along with coordinating the first-of-its-kind COVID-19 mass vaccination sites.

Cal OES also celebrated several milestones, specifically the 20th anniversary of the agency’s headquarters, and hosted its first-ever presidential visit.

Below is a timeline of 2021 events:


  • California’s Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System sent firefighter paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) on 14-day deployments to assist emergency rooms and other vital medical areas in some of California’s most impacted hospitals in response to a COVID surge.
  • Cal OES reached a milestone of 1 billion items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) distributed throughout California hospitals. PPE gives front line health workers, public servants, teachers and so many other essential workers the ability to safely care for those stricken with COVID.
  • With COVID impacting a shortage of hospital beds, Alternate Care Sites and Residential Alternate Care Sites were created to add capacity to existing systems. The strategically placed Alternate Care Sites were designed to build capacity and enhance the ability of hospitals to withstand the surge of COVID patients.


  • President Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom announced that two large-scale community-focused vaccine centers would be piloted in Oakland and East Los Angeles. With an eye toward responding to the vaccination needs of vulnerable and diverse communities, the two sites were the first of many planned nationwide.
  • To reach more members of the community in East Los Angeles and Oakland, state and federal partners launched mobile vaccination clinics designed to serve the most vulnerable populations. In addition to vaccination sites, these clinics deployed with a goal of administering hundreds of vaccines per mobile unit.


  • Building on previous efforts to protect local communities and vulnerable Californians from the impacts of utility-initiated power shutoffs, Governor Newsom directed the distribution of an additional $50 million in Community Power Resiliency grants through Cal OES.
  • Through a partnership with Accelerate360 of Atlanta, GA., Cal OES announced the donation of nearly 8 million PPE items. More than 7.8 million items, including protective face masks and hand sanitizer, were distributed to small businesses, tribal communities, migrants crossing the border into the United States and California’s essential workers on the front lines of the COVID pandemic.
  • In a continued effort to accelerate vaccinations statewide, Cal OES and FEMA announced that more than 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines were administered at Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) and Mobile Vaccination Clinics, based at the RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland and Cal State Los Angeles campus.


  • California delivered life-saving oxygen equipment to India, including 275 oxygen concentrators, 440 oxygen cylinders, 240 oxygen regulators and 210 pulse oximeters, as the country faced a devastating and fast-spreading surge of COVID cases.
  • As part of the ongoing effort to protect Californians from fraud and ensure the integrity of the state unemployment system, Cal OES formed a state-led task force on investigations and interdiction efforts and instituted new safeguards to protect Californians from fraud. Since being established in November 2020, the California Task Force on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fraud led to the arrests of dozens of individuals and opened more than 1,600 additional cases.
  • California first responders jumped into hands-on training for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic with the 2021 Sentinel Response at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Local, state and federal governments, along with the military, prepared for any major disaster, including a radiological terrorist attack.


  • 20th anniversary at the Current HQ: Simpler times and humble beginnings, Cal OES started as a department called the State War Council in 1943. With an increasing emphasis on emergency management, it officially became OES in 1970. Three decades later, it was apparent OES had outgrown the confines of its timber and tin Quonset hut, the WWII-era former CHP academy. So, with the support of law makers, especially Senator William Campbell, a new headquarters building was commissioned. Then on May 9, 2000, the ribbon was cut on the new home to Cal OES.
  • Following a successful 12-week mission to expand the rate of vaccinations in California in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, Cal OES concluded its work at the Community Vaccination Clinic (CVC) at the Oakland Coliseum on May 9, 2021. At its peak, the site granted around 6,000 appointments per day.
  • Cal OES kicked off the month of May by marking a major milestone, finding dozens of wildfire survivors a place to live. Working closely with FEMA, the Cal OES Individual Assistance program was able to secure and place all eligible 2020 wildfire survivors from Butte and Siskiyou counties into direct housing.


  • To protect California communities and augment the state’s fire and rescue mutual aid system, Cal OES transferred nine new Type VI engines and one Type III engine to local fire jurisdictions as part of the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System. Type VI engines were transferred to San Mateo, South San Francisco, Central County, San Bruno, Encinitas, Riverside, Oceanside and Murrieta fire departments, while Oceanside also received a Type III engine.
  • Cal OES delivered PPE to South Asian countries currently facing devastating surges of COVID cases. Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) and goggles were inspected, packed, and prepared for shipment at state warehouse facilities and sent to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.


  • At the request of FEMA, Governor Newsom through Cal OES, approved the deployment of California-based Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) resources to assist the state of Florida at the Surfside Tower collapse. The collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium killed 98 people.
  • Cal OES sent two additional strike teams to Oregon to assist with the Bootleg Fire. The two strike teams consisted of Type III engines from Anaheim, Fullerton, Laguna Beach, City of Orange, Long Beach, Escondido, San Marcos, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad and Oceanside fire departments.
  • Governor Newsom deployed firefighting resources to Montana in response to multiple wildfires burning in the eastern part of the state. One strike team consisting of firefighting personnel from San Bruno, Central County, San Mateo Consolidated and Kentfield, along with an Assistant Chief from Cal OES, relocated from the Bootleg Fire in Oregon to support firefighting efforts in Montana.
  • The Dixie Fire was an enormous wildfire in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama counties. The fire began in the Feather River Canyon near Cresta Dam on July 13, 2021 and burned 963,309 acres before being 100 percent contained on October 25, 2021. It was the largest non-complex wildfire in state history, and the second-largest overall. It was the first fire known to have burned across the crest of the Sierra Nevada. The fire damaged or destroyed several small towns, including Greenville.
  • The Monument Fire burned west of Big Bar in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The fire, which was started by a lightning strike, was first reported on July 30, 2021, and forced the evacuations of Big Flat, Big Bar, Del Loma, and Cedar Flat. The fire destroyed four structures, including three homes.


  • The River Fire started on August 4, 2021 and threatened the town of Colfax, burning 142 structures and 2,619 acres before being fully contained nine days later.
  • In coordination with Cal OES, Governor Newsom supported the deployment of the California-based Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces, totaling 57 personnel, to provide assistance due to an earthquake in Haiti.
  • The Caldor Fire burned in El Dorado and Amador counties in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The fire burned more than 220,000 acres and became just the second fire known to have crossed the Sierra Nevada mountain range, following the Dixie Fire which crossed a few days earlier. Full containment was reached on October 21.
  • Governor Newsom announced that the White House approved California’s request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster emergency response to wildfires and support impacted communities in Lassen, Nevada, Placer and Plumas counties.
  • As Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) specialized personnel were deployed to the region to assist in life-saving disaster response.


  • Governor Newsom announced that, within hours of California’s request, the White House approved a Presidential Emergency Declaration for Direct Federal Assistance to bolster the response to the Caldor Fire in El Dorado, Amador, Alpine and Placer counties.
  • On September 14, 2021 Governor Newsom welcomed President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as he arrived in California to survey damage from the Caldor Fire. The Governor and President Biden traveled to Cal OES’ headquarters, where they received a briefing on the Caldor Fire response led by CAL OES Director Mark Ghilarducci, CAL FIRE Director Thom Porter and U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien.
  • The California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI) celebrated 50 Years of training California’s emergency responders.


  • Cal OES and CalRecycle reached a huge milestone in cleaning wildfire debris from the 2020 fire season. As reported on the State’s Debris Removal Dashboard, crews removed more than 1.25 million tons — or over 2.5 billion pounds — of ash, debris, metal, concrete, and contaminated soil from the nearly 4,000 properties that took part in the State’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program.
  • Cal OES joined local, state and federal partners to remind Californians about the importance of earthquake preparedness with the annual Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill practicing Drop, Cover, and Hold On on the campus of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. At the event in Compton, students and staff participated in a drill at 10:21 a.m., demonstrating the right technique of finding a safe place to wait out an earthquake.
  • Working to support the business community impacted by the oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, Governor Newsom announced that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved federal disaster assistance for businesses in the region. The SBA Administrator declared Orange County a disaster area, which made available disaster assistance in the form of low interest loans. The declaration included Orange County and the adjacent counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.


  • On the three-year anniversary of the deadliest fire in state history, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the work to remove damaged trees and structural wildfire debris from the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County is complete.
  • Cal OES worked closely with FEMA to address and provide housing to 2021 wildfire survivors. Through a county-led process, 14 trailers have been setup in the town of Greenville to shelter 14 households until March 2022.
  • The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)mobilized resources at the direction of Cal OES for emergency Phase 1 cleanup operations to remove Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) from properties impacted by two wildfires this year.
  • Cal OES announced the approval of $493,938.75 in reimbursements to help the County of San Diego cover the costs of debris removal and its Consolidated Bin Program following last year’s Valley Fire.
  • FEMA approved a request from Cal OES and Trinity County to include the River Complex Fire as part of the major disaster declaration for the 2021 wildfires (DR-4610).


  • All 230 properties in Tulare County and all 229 properties in Siskiyou County whose owners enrolled in California’s statewide Consolidated Debris Removal Program after last year’s Castle and Slater fires, respectively, cleared the entire debris removal process and were returned to county officials to begin the permitting process for reconstruction.
  • Next-Generation 911, which provides multi-layered redundancy and a common technology platform for alerts and warnings, is now available in Tuolumne County.
  • Governor Newsom through Cal OES approved the deployment of California-based Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Resources that are a part of the National/FEMA US&R Incident Support Team (IST) to assist the state of Kentucky due to dozens of tornadoes.