Tuesday, 07 February 2023

Governor signs Sen. Dodd’s defensible space inspection bill

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that will encourage creation of defensible space, protecting life and property from future wildfires.

“We know that clearing combustible vegetation around our homes minimizes potential damage and the chances for wildfire to spread,” Sen. Dodd said. “We must take steps to protect ourselves as we’re seeing multiple infernos threaten communities across our state. I thank the governor for signing this bill, which will help measure how well we’re creating defensible space and decide on potential life-saving investments to keep our families safe.”

In a report last fall, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office cited the creation of defensible space around homes and other structures as among the most valuable steps that can be taken to reduce the destructiveness of wildfires.

Under existing law, homeowners in certain areas are required to create these fire-safe spaces. However, because of a number of factors, compliance and inspections are inconsistent from region to region, the LAO found.

Senate Bill 896 responds to the agency’s recommendations for increasing compliance and reducing future losses. It includes provisions to gather more information on defensible space inspections through improved data collection and to take initial steps to address other barriers to state and local defensible space efforts.

It also supports additional research to identify effective strategies to improve defensible space compliance and to conduct oversight activities to learn from and inform future policy decisions.

SB 896 was signed by the governor today after receiving overwhelming support in the Legislature.

“I very much appreciate the governor’s recognition of this important issue,” said Yana Valachovic, forest advisor and county director for the University of California Cooperative Extension-Humboldt and Del Norte counties. “It will contribute to helping communities track progress toward adoption of this important practice.”

Defensible space — and wildfire protection in general — has been a top priority for Sen. Dodd for several years, beginning in 2019 with his authorship of SB 190 which directed the state fire marshal to develop model defensive space standards that local governments could voluntarily use as part of their zoning codes.

Dodd represents the Third Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa and Sacramento counties.

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