After a record breaking year of wildfires in 2020 (not a good record to have by any means), California Governor Gavin Newsom released a new $536 million plan to prevent future wildfires.
Nature's View: The plan is packaged in the Senate Bill 85 and Assembly Bill 79, which would help speed up deployment with more than half of an unprecedented $1 billion in fire prevention and suppression that Gov. Newsoms set aside for the proposed 2021-2022 budget. The new wildfire plan would help boost forest health, create developmental standards to protect homes against fires and invest in fire prevention grants and workforce training.
The situation is dire in California, here are the facts:
As of 2010, California had 4.5 million homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface.
2 million of those are at high or extreme risk from wildfire.
Last year more than 4 million acres burned across the state.
"We must change the way we build in high fire risk zones, and if certain common sense health and safety requirements can’t be met, we shouldn’t be building at all," McGuire said in a statement introducing the bill.
Limiting development or saving lives?
Building groups on the other hand are critical to the plan as they think it might limit development.
"The problem is we have had these devastating fires, and the answer becomes an either-or scenario, instead of an and-both solution," said Peter Tateishi, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of California. "They’re kind of saying, 'We’re tired of fighting the fires, so we’ll just restrict development altogether.'"
New build material requirements are aimed at using fire-resistant materials and restricting the use of light lumber and wood framing in the name of fire safety. Construction of new California homes requires fire suppression sprinkler systems on the interior and also new materials like asphalt shingles, cement fiber siding and better eave designs.
Demand for housing often moves to the outskirts of town in California. Dan Dunmoyer, CEO of the residential-focused California Building Industry Association, feels like this puts a stopper on new development growth and considers the plan a "no-growth strategy."
In response to some of these arguments, things got a little heated 😳 as Newsom said at an event in Fresno last week. "If you don’t believe in climate change, if you don’t believe in science, you believe your own damn eyes. Something is happening as it relates to the issue of climate that’s exacerbating conditions and making the challenge of wildfire suppression and prevention that much more ominous."