SACRAMENTO–Today Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 38, authored by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), along with a number of measures that respond to the wildfire crisis in California.
Climate change has resulted in wildfires that have grown larger and increased in intensity over the last several decades. Through the end of the 2017 calendar year, 11 of the 20 most destructive wildfires in California have occurred in the last 10 years. Last year, California experienced the most destructive wildfires in its history in terms of the loss of life and structures.
“More than 2 million California households, approximately one in four residential structures, are located within or in a high fire hazard severity zones, and our communities need our help to adapt,” said Wood.
AB 38 establishes a 5-year pilot program that will require California’s Office of Emergency Services and CAL FIRE to work together to utilize a broad range of potential funding, including federal funds, to proactively support at-risk communities by proposing the first ever statewide fire retrofit program to help communities and owners of homes built prior to updated building codes in 2008 harden their homes and make them more likely to survive future fires. funding could be used to encourage cost-effective structure hardening and retrofitting and vegetation management to improve the fire resistance of homes, businesses and public buildings.
“Establishing statewide standards are critical because wildfires do not respect jurisdictional boundaries or property lines,” said Wood. “To make a fire retrofit program effective we must get homeowners to work together to retrofit groups of homes collectively. If just one homeowner on the block hardens their home but the rest of the houses do not, those unprotected houses can provide more enough fuel to burn down an entire neighborhood.”
The bill requires the State Fire Marshal, in consultation with specified state officials, to identify building retrofits and structure hardening measures, and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to identify defensible space, vegetation management, and fuel modification activities, that are eligible for financial assistance under the program.
AB 38 will also help educate home buyers in fire prone areas by requiring property sellers in those areas to inform buyers that the property is in compliance with established wildfire protection measures, including fire hardening improvements on the property and a disclosure notice to also include the State Fire Marshal’s list of low-cost retrofits.
“We need to help our homeowners and communities adapt to the new reality that wildfires are more common and more severe than ever, and the state can help by establishing new standards and identifying resources for that purpose,” said Wood.
See Governor Newsom's release here.