Governor Newsom invests in wildfire prevention budget package

Ahead of peak fire season, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $536 million wildfire package enabling the state to take urgent action on projects that support wildfire suppression, improve forest health and build resilience in communities to help protect residents and property from catastrophic wildfires in diverse landscapes across the state.

 

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Senate Bill 85 builds on the governor’s early action funding for wildfire resilience proposed in his 2021-2022 state budget. It funds projects to restore the ecological health of forests and watersheds, fuel breaks around vulnerable communities, statewide fire prevention grants targeting projects to advance community hardening and improvements to defensible space to mitigate wildfire damage. This early action plan is part of the governor’s overall proposed $1 billion investment in forest health and community fire resilience.

Newsom said:

“California is taking bold, early action to protect our high-risk communities from the upcoming wildfire season before it starts. This crucial funding will go towards efforts including fuel breaks, forest health projects and home hardening. I thank the members of the Legislature for their partnership as we do more than ever before to build wildfire and forest resilience across the state.”

This funding for fire prevention couldn’t come sooner. A recent study done by researchers at the University of Southern California San Diego found that wildfire particulate matter can have a greater effect on respiratory health than particulate matter from other sources.

The researchers found that these particulates were up to 10 times more harmful than non-smoke particulate matter. Another study found that respiratory emergency department visits and hospitalizations increased during wildfires.

But wildfires don’t just affect the physical health of Californians. They can also have an immense psychological effect on survivors. A study called “Wildfires and Health: Assessing the Toll in Northwest California,” found that a third of survivors reported heightened anxiety or stress, and a quarter said they had experienced nightmares or trouble sleeping. Around 20% had trouble concentrating or felt depressed.

Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins said this is an issue that affects all Californians.

“As the Senate passed the wildfire prevention and resiliency package yesterday, members spoke about the many fires that have torn through their districts. From the coast to inland, north to south, Paradise to San Diego, each of us have watched our communities burn, evacuate, and work to rebuild far too many times. Together, we are just 40 people, but each of us represent the millions of Californians who said goodbye to homes, loved ones, and livelihoods. This bill will help protect those who have lost so much to wildfires and prevent fresh pain from being inflicted across the state. This is an investment in Californians, and it will not be the last.”