California to authorize $536 million for wildfire mitigation

About double what has been spent in recent years

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Zogg Fire
Zogg Fire, in Northern California, looking west from West Peak at 3:46 p.m. PDT Sept. 27, 2020. AlertWildfire.

A bill expected to be signed by California’s Governor next week will authorize $536 million for forest management and wildfire mitigation in the state. This is about double what has been spent in recent years.

The final survey of the season found the snowpack at 59 percent of average, and most of the state’s reservoirs are at considerably lower levels than their historical averages. Most of California is in drought, ranging from moderate to exceptional, according to the April 6 Drought Monitor.

Drought Monitor, April 6, 2021
Drought Monitor, April 6, 2021.

After budget cutbacks last year anticipating that the COVID-19 pandemic would reduce incoming funds, California ended up with a significant surplus.

Anticipating a greater need for wildfire mitigation, and now having dollars available, the Governor’s office released a statement that read in part:

“With California facing another extremely dry year, it is critical that we get a head start on reducing our fire risk. We are doing that by investing more than half a billion dollars on projects and programs that provide improved fire prevention for all parts of California.

“Key parts of the Administration’s initial proposal have been supplemented by legislative ideas that will pay dividends over the years, such as greater investments in forest health projects, improvements on defensible space, home hardening against fires, fire prevention grants, and prevention workforce training. The plan includes public and private lands vegetation management, community-focused efforts for prevention and resilience and economic stimulus for the forestry economy.”

About $22 million is being committed to help low-income and disadvantaged homeowners implement structure hardening to make them more resistant to wildfire.

At least $123 million is going toward the Fire Prevention Grants program. The funding will be awarded using criteria that maintains fire risk severity as the primary factor, and then prioritizes projects that protect a larger population base or number of structures relative to the size of the grant.

Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd, a member of the Senate Wildfire Working Group, said the new spending package includes more than $280 million for forest management and $200 million for fuel breaks.

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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.

6 thoughts on “California to authorize $536 million for wildfire mitigation”

  1. First of all this is a great publication and forum for fire related information. Thank you!

    For the past 25 years we have been living in the WUI in western Sonoma County California, home to increasing larger annual wildfires. I have had several specialists over on several occasions to advise us on home hardening. From what I now know, it’s not cheap, it’s multifaceted, and there are a lot of different ideas on what to do.

    We have started the expensive hardening project and I have not been able to find any government assistance. Please let me know if I have missed something.

    Several issues we are considering include:

    If we spend the money to harden and the government finally provides hardening funds will they be retroactive or will the early adapters be “punished” because they took action out of necessity and caution.

    Next year in California, like a termite report, home sellers will have to disclose to buyers their fire status and mitigation measures. This will obviously become a bargaining point and may effect insurance, but certainly will certainly effect property value.

    When homes burn they off-gas many toxins that the general public winds up inhaling. Isn’t it in the best interests of the common good to provide support for homeowners to harden?

  2. Not all fire seasons will be a 2020 year, this was a historic event. Your protection agency Cal Fire has an astonishing containment record of between 96 and 98 percent for wildfires before the next burning period, which is the the next day prior to 1000 hours. When the “system” is over loaded with new fire starts, there is little that can be done other than prioritize those fires which are an immediate threat to the public. This was what was happening last fire season. Each land owner or property occupant (renter) should follow the fire safe guidelines and do what they can to protect themselves. Have a plan for immediate escape. Keep the car headed out with gas and some supplies. Don’t count on the State to protect you. Maybe that sounds harsh, but living in the mountain all my life that is the reality.

  3. I will believe it when I see it. Lake county has huge devastating fires every year, and still there is so much flammable brush and dead or dying trees along road ways and on private property. There are a lot of people that don’t have the means to clear their property or they can’t find anyone to help them (like me) I highly doubt we will see any help here other than telling people to clear their property. Pretty sad and all this so called money to help people to harden their property will be wasted or go into a pocket it doesn’t belong in.

  4. California once again has the answer to protecting property and people, throw more money into an OBSCURE (adjective, noun, verb) program. Again, additional studies and huge grants will result in a limited amount of actual taxpayer benefits. Example, low income and disadvantaged home owners will benefit (joke) from this program. Middle and upper income people are on their own. Maybe land owners don’t want to have a “hardened” fortress from fire?
    Fire Prevention Grant Program only 123 million plus dollars for this group. California doesn’t have very many acres of timbered forest as compare to the Forest Service. California has watershed. Most timber country in California is privately owned. Like the bullet train (to no where) large amounts of taxpayer money will be “burned” up with little results. As mentioned in the above article “drought”, when was the last time California built or completed (Auburn) a dam? How about responsible logging, especially on Federal lands within the State? This is the answer to designing a forest that is more resistant to catastrophic timber fires. Only a few logging mills remain in California. Control burning of millions of acres? The State and Federal government are doing that every summer. Let’s not weary about air quality or runoff impact. Between land developers, public utilities and environmental groups the ways of the past for protecting California is gone. Here is the bottom line, when Mother Nature wants to show her strength little or nothing can be done to prevent destruction of lives and property. Or move to the Mohave Desert.

    1. Great points and agreeeee 100%! Lets just set politics aside to address this issue. Wait, we can’t, why? Because when you run for office, or currently in office (Newsom/Brown), it looks great on paper to throw millions/billions of dollars at a problem just for the bragging rights to say, “Hey I tried to fix it, see we spent a crap ton of money.” As California history shows, legislation is not aimed at really helping reduce fire danger (Reduce, because the problem is a moving fire train that will never stop), but making officials appear in control. Common sense shows there is no control. Working for the USFS in the early 90’s, we had the exact same issues back then. Everyone cried to not do controlled burns that it makes the landscape ugly and kills tourism. What also kills tourism is cities and towns decimated by wildfire because mitigation tactics like controlled burns, establishing designated future fire line anchor points, thinning etc etc are prevented by politics. In Auburn, (Not to name names) but certain air board members want to ban all burning and go to green waste only. You cant green waste forests and the entire private property back country. Piles on properties build up making an even deadlier disaster potential. Landfills begin to create enormous methane build up. On and on. Sure we want to protect the air and our landscape, but fire is natures way of clean up. Trees love the smoke and thrive. Pine cones release seeds. But politics will say lets spend a lot of money to do 10 years studies and then keep doing them but not take action. Going electric does not reduce debris build up in the forest either. However sure lightening does. We look back on 100 years of fire suppression, and we have created most of these problems. Nature says we need to burn more to have balance.

  5. Unfortunately, what will happen is that this one time increase will not result in “the end of wildfires” and they’ll cut the budget again next year. It’s going to take decades of this, along with millions of acres of prescribed fire.


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