Gov. Newsom Inks Bill Adding Half A Billion Dollars To Wildfire Prevention
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Credit: Office of the Governor of California
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bipartisan legislative deal Tuesday that sets aside an additional $535 million for wildfire prevention this year.
The legislative package comes after the state endured its worst wildfire season in modern history last year. The governor signed the bill at the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area in Butte County — the site of the destructive North Complex wildfire last year.
“California is taking bold, early action to protect our high-risk communities from the upcoming wildfire season before it starts,” Newsom said.
Newsom said the money accelerates fire prevention projects in areas that are prone to wildfires.
“Four-plus-million acres burned last year,” Newsom said. “More than 2018 and 2019 combined. And while it wasn’t the deadliest or most destructive wildfire season, it certainly was in terms of the total acreage burned.”
Climate change is raising the risk that a small fire will grow out of control and Newsom said the state should expect the fire risk to go up each year.
The $535 million legislative package includes money for firebreaks, forest health and hardening homes.
”From the coast to inland, north to south, Paradise to San Diego, each of us has watched our communities burn, evacuate and work to rebuild far too many times,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego).
The money comes in addition to nearly $500 million already set aside for firefighting in the state budget. That included $80 million to hire an additional 1,400 firefighters.
State officials are warning that people shouldn’t be misled into thinking this solves California’s wildfire problem.
“The focus here is on how much work lies ahead for us,” said Richard Bloom a state assembly member from Southern California. “And we need to be conscientious about making sure that this very important funding that we provide this year. Continues on into the future, because we won’t get it all done this year.”
Meanwhile, Republican State Senator Scott Wilk said nearly every community in the state has been affected by wildfires and he wants to see some state rules eliminated so wildfire mitigation efforts can move forward.
"These are issues that should have been — and could have been — addressed today or even a decade ago,” Wilk said. “If only the Democrats would attach the same sense of urgency to wildfire mitigation efforts that they have to electric vehicle subsidies, we would all be in a better, safer position today.”
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