California Governor proposes changes to fire management and prevention

President Trump, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom
On November 17, 2018 President Trump, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom (L-R) visited the Incident Command Post at the Camp Fire near Chico, California. Screenshot from CBS video.

Since California Governor Gavin Newsom’s inauguration in January he has proposed a number of initiatives that he hopes will help mitigate the damages caused by wildfires in California. Ten of the most destructive fires in the state have occurred since 2015.

“We are in a very precarious state literally and figuratively,” said Governor Newsom.

Most of the Governor’s recommendations will require action by the state legislature when considering the 2019-2020 budget:

  • Funding to convert seven HC-130H aircraft into air tankers. The aircraft  initially operated by the Coast Guard were transferred to the U.S. Forest Service. After several years the FS decided they did not want them and they were then given to the state of California by an act of Congress.
  • Funds for hundreds of new fire detection cameras.
  • A 911 fee on phone bills, starting in 2020, to help pay for improving emergency communications system statewide.

The Governor said he wants to hold “Pacific Gas & Electric accountable” for safety in light of the fact that the company’s power lines have started numerous destructive wildfires in recent years.

“I expect that PG&E is going to get serious, no longer misdirect, manipulate, mislead the people of this state about their resolve and commitment to address reliability and safety,” said Newsom.

However one of the more controversial proposals from the Governor is allocating responsibility for wildfire costs. One of the alternatives is to establish a catastrophic wildfire fund which would potentially spread the cost of damages from wildfires more broadly to ratepayers, investors, insurance companies, local governments, and attorneys representing victims.

In February the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released a Community Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Report that outlined plans to reduce hazardous fuels, identifying 35 priority projects that can be implemented immediately to help reduce public safety risk for over 200 communities.

On January 8 Governor Newsom appointed Thom Porter as director of CAL FIRE. Previously he served as the acting director.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

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