As more than a dozen blazes rage across California this week, a state senator who’s been personally affected by the state’s constant wildfires is urging support for legislation focused more on fire prevention than on response.
In a call with reporters Friday, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D) reiterated the need for legislation she introduced in February in light of the massive Carr and Ferguson fires, which have burned a total of more than 200,000 acres in Northern California.
Her bill aims to change the state’s wildfire strategy from one that is largely reactive to one that would do a better job of preventing out-of-control fires from igniting on California’s bone-dry land in the first place.
“Bottom line, California is a tinderbox ready to burn,” Jackson said, noting that climate change has warmed the state and been linked to its years-long drought.
At its core, the legislation would clear the path for more prescribed burns on federal, state and privately held lands in order to reduce wildfire fuel. It would also create training standards for people carrying out prescribed burns on all land. The bill, Jackson says, would provide funding that would allow the state to triple the amount of land treated with prescribed burns.
“Clearly we have to think differently, and we have to act differently,” she said, calling her proposal “a more scientific and pre-emptive approach.”
The bill is “deeply personal” to Jackson, she said Friday. Last year, her Santa Barbara community was affected by the devastating Thomas Fire, which burned 288,000 acres for 40 days and led to debris flow that killed 23 of her neighbors.
Jackson’s bill is currently moving through the Assembly appropriations committee. The bill has support from environmental groups and people residing in heavily forested areas.