Sacramento, CA – The California Senate has put forward a budget that invests heavily in keeping neighbors and communities safe from wildfire in every corner of California.
Hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to enhancing our firefighting resources, preparing for emergencies and protecting our communities from the rising threats of wildfires has been included in the state budget.
Senator Mike McGuire, whose North Coast District has been inundated with deadly and devastating wildfires for four consecutive years, helped lead the effort in the Senate to ensure California is preparing for the reality that the Golden State is now facing a year-round fire season.
“We’ve said all along that the size and scope of wildland fires are only getting worse. While we’ve made significant progress over the past five years in beefing up our emergency response infrastructure, we know there is a lot more work ahead. This budget is making strategic investments in seven new C-130 Air Tankers, hundreds of millions in funding is being moved into communities for vegetation management and dead and dying tree removal and we’re making desperately needed investments in the State Office of Emergency Services. California is taking action to fight fire season head-on,” Senator Mike McGuire said.
Included in the state budget, which the legislature approved today, and will be sent to Governor Newsom for his signature, is:
- Hundreds of millions of dollars to Cal Fire for engines, boots on the ground, and planes and helicopters in the air, including:
- Over $13 million for C-130 Air Tankers which will be transitioned from the federal government. The funding will implement the first year of staffing, operating and maintenance and will prepare the state to accept the first of seven C130s in 2020-2021.
- Over $40 million to add 13 new fire engines to Cal Fire’s fleet, as well as 131 additional positions to staff those engines. This would bring the total size of the fleet to 356 fire engines.
- Over $15 million in increased staffing for fire response including 34 heavy equipment operator positions in order to have a total of three heavy equipment operators for each of Cal Fire’s 58 bulldozers to provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week staffing.
- Over $97 million for the purchase of four additional Blackhawk helicopters, which are used when fighting wildland fires. Acquiring these Blackhawks is part of the ongoing effort to replace the twelve Vietnam-era helicopters that are currently in use across the state. The first two Blackhawk firefighting helicopters will be deployed this year.
- Over $6 million will be dedicated to expand health and wellness programs for firefighters which involve screenings for health conditions common to firefighters, such as heart disease and certain types of cancer. The funding will also increase staffing for Cal Fire’s Employee Support Services program that provides mental health support to Cal Fire employees and family members.
- $200 million to continue the state’s commitments to significantly reduce wildland fire fuel including vegetation management and removal of tens of thousands of dead and dying trees.
- More than $125 million for the California Office of Emergency Services, including:
- $75 million to improve resiliency of the state’s critical infrastructure in response to utility companies increased intent to use Public Safety Power Shutdowns, and to provide assistance to communities as specific urgent needs are identified. As a result of the anticipated shutdowns, affected areas may be without power for several hours, days, and in some cases, over a week. This will provide a flexible source of funding to facilitate immediate response to utility initiated power shutdowns.
- $25 million for prepositioning of existing Cal OES and local government firefighting resources that are part of the statewide mutual aid system with the goal of enhancing wildfire and disaster response readiness. Prepositioning occurs in areas of identified potential fire threat, which is determined through various means such as weather modeling, high winds, low humidity, high temperatures and dense fire load.
- Over $28 million in increased funding for the California Disaster Assistance Act (CDAA), which is used to repair, restore, or replace public property damaged or destroyed by a disaster, and to reimburse local governments for costs associated with certain emergency activities undertaken in response to a state of emergency.
- Over $3 million to the California Department of Food and Agriculture for staffing up the California Animal Response Emergency System and catastrophic livestock disease prevention program. As we’ve seen in past disasters, one of the most critical forms of response to rural areas threatened by wildfires is livestock and large animals that need to be cared for, saved and fed during emergencies. This funding will establish teams that will coordinate and respond when there are threats to animal health during emergencies.
“With the summer weather heating up, it’s just one more reminder that we have to do everything in our power to be prepared for another tough fire season,” Senator McGuire said. “We are grateful to Pro Tem Atkins for her leadership and support on this important issue.