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State Needs More Resources to Fight Wildfires

In September I invited state emergency officials to come to San Diego and testify about California’s preparation for fighting wildfires. What I heard disturbed me: too few fire trucks positioned statewide; too few cities and local governments are able to provide the same level of firefighting assistance as in years past; and too few funds are available to purchase fire equipment in the coming years. While California uses a disaster response system that combines the resources of all levels of government, experts at the hearing testified that the system is at risk of unraveling because of a lack of funds at every level of government.

The situation is compounded by the increasing cost of fighting fires as climate change, drought, and housing development in more isolated areas combine to burn hundreds of thousands of acres and cost the state more than $1 billion a year.

As discouraging as the situation may be, raising new revenue would improve our state’s response to emergencies. I sponsored legislation last year which would have assessed each property owner $50 per year to fund fire prevention in areas where the state assumes wildfire fighting responsibility. Another measure I introduced last year would have made it easier for local governments to raise funds for firefighting. Unfortunately, both measures failed to pass the Legislature. This year I wrote a bill that aimed to reduce property damage in backcountry areas but the Governor vetoed the legislation.

No matter the challenge, you may be assured that I will continue to secure consistent funding for California’s firefighting efforts.

This bill would have limited major development in state parks, like the proposed transmission line through Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the toll road expansion through San Onofre State Park. The bill would have required any proposed infrastructure project in state parklands be
recommended by the State Parks Commission and approved by the Legislature.