Sunday, 14 August 2022

Sen. Dodd’s prescribed fire fund bill clears Senate

With drought conditions and high temperatures threatening an early start to the wildfire season, the California Senate approved legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would enhance wildfire prevention through implementation of a $20 million prescribed fire claims fund.

“In light of our worsening wildfire seasons, it makes perfect sense to bolster one of the most effective means of wildfire prevention,” Sen. Dodd said. “That’s why I wrote the law last year to encourage greater use of prescribed fires. This bill continues our efforts by ensuring practitioners of this time-tested technique can be protected from unintended costs. This vote brings us a step closer to achieving that goal.”

Prescribed fire, also known as controlled burning, has been used for centuries to clear tinder-dry trees and brush that are known to fuel runaway wildfires.

Rarely do prescribed fires escape their bounds and cause damage to neighboring properties. If they do, Sen. Dodd’s new bill, Senate Bill 926, would establish a fund to help cover costs.

It is a follow-up to Senate Bill 332, written by Sen. Dodd and signed into law last year, which protects landowners and prescribed fire managers from having to pay fire suppression expenses unless they have acted with gross negligence.

SB 926 is sponsored by The Nature Conservancy. It was approved in the Senate with overwhelming support and heads next to the Assembly.

“Science shows that prescribed fire is vital to curbing catastrophic megafires in California,” said Jay Ziegler, director of policy and external affairs at The Nature Conservancy. “In the big picture, if we are going to restore our forests at a pace and scale, we need to reduce barriers to burning, our most effective long-term landscape fire management tool. SB 926 will do that. We thank Sen. Dodd for his leadership on SB 926 to establish a prescribed fire claims fund.”

“Sen. Dodd’s legislative leadership on prescribed fire and cultural burning is charting a path forward to a safer, healthier, more resilient California,” said Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy program at Stanford University. “SB 926 is critical to this path because it will provide a substitute for the now unavailable insurance that prescribed fire practitioners need to practice their craft.”

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