Sacramento, CA – In a budget deal reached today by the Legislature and the Governor, California is making significant investments to enhance mutual aid firefighting resources and to protect our communities from the rising threats of wildfires.
For months, Senator Mike McGuire and the entire North Bay Legislative Delegation worked tirelessly and led the way with the California Fire Chiefs, the California Professional Firefighters Association, CalFire Firefighters, California Fire Districts Association, California State Fire Fighters Association and many other public safety organizations to secure millions in new funding for enhanced mutual aid.
McGuire, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, is pleased to announce $50 million dollars will be dedicated to enhanced mutual aid response, which will better equip and prepare our state’s firefighting agencies to battle the “New Normal” of California’s wildfire season.
“California is facing a new normal – the size and scope of wildland fires are getting worse. Today’s budget deal reinforces the Legislature and Governor’s commitment to taking swift action and ensuring a more proactive and effective mutual aid response system is implemented across our state,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “The safety of our communities depends on it.”
While California’s Mutual Aid System is world-renowned, 2017 confirmed the severe strain that the system currently faces. More than 35,600 mutual aid requests were made last year, of which 11,000 (31 percent) went unfilled. This is a record number in our state’s history.
In addition to the $50 million mutual aid budget allocation, the state has also responded with critical investments including: $95 million for the purchase of new helicopters to replace CalFire’s current Vietnam-era helicopters; $4 million to fully staff and operate the McClellan Airforce Base, which provides a centralized location for rapid deployment of Large Firefighting Air Tankers, Very Large Air Tankers, and the California National Guard Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems; and $16 million for CalFire equipment replacement, including fire engines.
In addition, in the next month, up to $195 million will also be awarded to communities through CalFire’s Forest Health and Fire Prevention Programs. Together, these programs improve resiliency of forested and forest-adjacent communities and upper watershed forests while achieving climate goals.
The North Bay Legislative Delegation hosted a meeting with CalFire’s and representatives from the North Bay’s fire impacted counties of Mendocino, Sonoma, Lake and Napa - along with the cities of Santa Rosa and Clearlake - to identify opportunities to secure these funds. Millions will be requested by many of the counties that were devastated by the October Firestorm. Numerous grant opportunities are available for projects like removal of dead and dying trees, community fire prevention program funding, vegetation clearance and other activities that reduce the risk of wildfires.
“The October 2017 North Bay Firestorm will go down as the most destructive and deadly in modern American history and it was absolutely critical that the State of California invested in programs to improve resiliency, address the risk of wildfire and reduce wildfire potential in our communities,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “We still have work ahead of us, but these funds will help protect our communities fight California’s New Normal.”
The budget deal will be voted on this afternoon by the joint Legislative conference committee, before approval by both the full Senate and Assembly.