As another nightmarish fire season nears its peak, California lawmakers have unanimously approved and Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted a measure that puts a “dedicated workforce” in charge of prevention and control. forest fire preparedness.
Assembly member Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, who drafted the bill, said it was needed to improve the state’s nascent battle against wildfires.
Despite repeated increases in state firefighting personnel and resources, Wood said in a statement that “year after year … wildfire prevention work has had to take a back seat as our resources have been depleted. needed almost full-time to fight fires “.
Noting that more than 2 million acres have been burned this year and that “entire communities have been lost,” Wood said that “for all of California’s efforts to advance in protecting our environment and improving air quality, these forest fires are taking it away from us, and it must stop.
Seven of the state’s 20 deadliest fires, which claimed 151 lives, have raged since 2017, he noted. The camp fire, which left 85 people dead and demolished the town of Paradise, Butte County, in 2018, tops the list.
Bill AB 9, which passed unanimously in the Senate (38-0) and the Assembly (79-0), was signed by the governor last week.
It was among the 11 bills cited by CapRadio as outstanding among the 900 or so new laws approved before the end of the legislative session on September 10.
The bill creates a new branch within the state fire marshal’s office that will focus year-round exclusively on preventing fires in the community, including reducing the fuel of forest fires and hardening fires. houses.
It moves eight existing programs currently spread across Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency, into the new branch.
“It’s our only way out of this endless cycle of forest fire disasters,” said Wood.
“I think this is a big step for the state,” said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
Wood, whose district stretches from Santa Rosa to the Oregon border, has been “a constant champion of forest fire risk reduction,” she said.
Hopkins noted that local Cal Fire officials have called for a “better battlefield” to be created to protect against wildfires, including fuel cuts and prescribed burns.
You can contact editor Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or [email protected] On Twitter @guykovner.