Thursday, August 14, 2008

Holding The Line Against Wildfires

Yesterday, Sen. Sam Aanestad held a one-sided “Legislative Wildfire Summit” that purported to probe the reason behind the more than 2,000 devastating wildfires that have swept California. Essentially, he explained, more logging in forest areas would lessen the fire problem – and he scolded the governor for not allowing that logging.

The Grass Valley Republican concluded his event by sending out
a press release that included the following quote:

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” said Senator Aanestad. “This didn’t have to happen.”

He’s right: it didn’t have to happen – and it doesn’t have to keep happening. Smarter land-use decisions like those advocated by Sierra Club California priority bill
SB 1500 (Kehoe) would give CalFire the chance to develop helpful guidance documents for local government, and offer CalFire a greater role in reviewing and commenting on General Plan Safety Elements as well as projects built in State Responsibility Areas and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. And SB 1617 (Kehoe), another Sierra Club California-backed bill, would provide new funds for proactive fire protection by assessing a $50 fee on the houses that are already in this fire-prone area – helping to address the problem of fire protection for homes already in unsafe areas.

But Senator Aanestad has voted against SB 1500 and SB 1617, just as he
voted against a 2004 bill that increased defensible space requirements, Senate Bill 1369. Now state law, the bill requires clearing 100 feet of defensible space around homes in fire-prone areas – a move the insurance industry has credited with saving homes during wildfire.

A robust fire suppression program to protect lives and homes will always need to be a core part of California’s fire management efforts. Still, 2008’s tragic fires have reminded us all that we can’t address fire with suppression alone – we need to get smarter about how we plan and prepare for inevitable fires, and stop exacerbating the problem by building homes in harm’s way.

We best honor those who have died and suffered in these wildfires not by getting mad, but by pledging to make good planning decisions that keep families and firefighters out of harm’s way.

Please encourage your representatives to support SB 1500 and SB 1617, to protect homes, families and firefighters.

photo by Robert A. Eplett, OES California


Republicans want more aggressive forest thinning (Contra Costa Times)

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