Wildfire Oversight

During California’s disastrous 2020 fire season, almost 4.2 million acres burned. Tragically, 33 people died, thousands of homes were lost, and an estimated 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere.

Now we’re in the second year of a drought and the 2021 fire season has begun. The Dixie Fire is raging across the Northern Sierras and Cascades, and the Concord Fire, southwest of Lake Tahoe, has ravaged the community of Grizzly Flats.

An oversight hearing in the Assembly Budget Sub 3 Committee was scheduled for August 18 to review strategy and goals for investments in wildfire prevention and forest resiliency, along with barriers to preventing wildfires and improving forest health. With the fall Santa Ana season approaching, we must take stock of our wildfire prevention programs, marshal our resources and prepare for what could become the worst fire season in history. Hence, the need for Assembly involvement/oversight is obvious.

Well, maybe not so much. Four days before the hearing, majority leadership abruptly postponed it indefinitely. Families are being displaced, children are not in school, communities are being destroyed, pollution from the fires is rampant, more fires are likely on the way, and yet a hearing to bring in experts to discuss wildfire prevention strategies and goals was canceled without explanation. Perhaps it’s because the hearing would also delve into a Capitol Public Radio and National Public Radio report that found priority fire prevention projects were overstated and funding for wildfire programs was cut, despite devastating recent fires and a $38 billion budget surplus. More on the report is available here.

Rest assured I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure that providing resources for wildfire prevention and management remains a top priority, despite some in Sacramento who don’t seem to want to talk about it.