Jackson Bill to Reduce Risk of Wildfires Passes off Senate Floor

May 30, 2018

SACRAMENTOSenator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)’s legislation to help protect California communities from catastrophic wildfires, passed off the Senate floor today with unanimous support. SB 1260 allows for improved forest management practices to reduce the risk of wildfires in light of our changing climate. Jackson chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management and represents the region devastated by the Thomas Fire.

Senate Bill 1260 clears the path for greater and more frequent wildfire fuel reduction and prescribed burns, sets air quality standards for prescribed burns, and allows California’s fire agency to provide input during the planning of new home construction in fire hazard areas.

“The 2017 wildfires devastated communities, destroyed homes, and claimed lives throughout our state. The Thomas Fire in my district alone burned over 282,000 acres, a total of 440 square miles and led to a deadly debris flow, while the Northern California fires destroyed over 8,000 structures and took 44 lives. With our changing climate, these frequent and severe wildfires are the new normal. We have to face this reality and take concrete action to ensure our communities are better prepared. That includes modifying our forest management practices in light of the impacts of climate change on our natural resources,” said Senator Jackson.

2017 was the deadliest and most destructive year for wildfires on record in California. In addition to loss of life and property, California spent nearly $1.8 billion fighting the major 2017 wildfires. While wildfires are a fact of life in California, higher temperatures and drier conditions linked to climate change have contributed to more frequent and severe fires throughout the state.

In addition, as a result of climate change and extended drought conditions, over 129 million trees have died in California forests since 2010. These dead trees increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires by serving as fuel and allowing fires to spread rapidly.

Many states and the federal government have begun taking measures to increase the use of controlled burning, also known as prescribed burning, as a way to reduce the vegetation buildup that can act as a fuel for wildfires. Prescribed burns help reduce the risk and severity of wildfires and lessen the loss of life and property.

Senate Bill 1260 clears the path for controlled burns by collaborating with federal, state and private landowners to implement responsible prescribed burning on federally and privately owned property in the state. Additionally, the bill would fund removal of dead trees from high fire hazard zones and establish a cost-sharing program to assist homeowners in fire hazard zones with fire-resistance improvements.

The bill also allows the state’s fire agency to provide input during subdivision planning in fire hazard regions, and calls on the California Air Resources Board to develop an air quality and smoke monitoring program for prescribed burns.

SB 1260 carries out a number of directives included in an Executive Order Governor Brown released earlier this month to help reduce California’s risk of wildfires.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.