Governor’s Budget Addresses Growing Wildfire Risks
This is the final post in a two-part series on how the governor’s budget proposal addresses natural resources. The first post looked at water and climate issues.
In recent years, California has experienced some of the worst wildfires on record, and the risk is increasing as the climate warms and precipitation becomes more variable. Governor Newsom’s proposed budget supports an array of tools for reducing the threat of wildfire. Funding for these investments would come from the state General Fund, a proposed climate resilience bond, and the greenhouse gas reduction fund (GGRF). The budget prioritizes three wildfire-related areas:
- Boosting fire suppression resources: The budget would increase the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s (Cal Fire), annual budget by $120 million. It would also add 677 staff positions over five years—an 11% increase in the state’s permanent firefighting force. These investments would improve Cal Fire’s ability to ramp up fire suppression efforts through a longer fire The budget also provides $9 million for the development of an interagency center to improve wildfire detection and responsiveness, as required by SB 209 (2019).
- Bolstering community resilience: The budget proposes significant funding increases to make homes and community infrastructure less vulnerable to wildfire damage. It earmarks $500 million to reduce fire risks to community infrastructure, including drinking water systems, emergency shelters, and public medical facilities. It also includes $25 million for a pilot program that would provide financial assistance for home hardening (for example, switching to fire-resistant roofing) in low-income communities, as required by AB 38 (2019). Another $25 million is proposed for community resilience planning, including the development of local wildfire emergency plans. And the California Office of Emergency Services would get $50 million to help local governments prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the impact of wildfire-related power outages.
- Improving forest health: Actions that help the state’s forests withstand high-severity wildfire, drought, and pests are essential to reduce wildfire threats. The budget builds on past efforts by allocating $165 million to Cal Fire’s forest health grant program. It also includes $250 million to supplement existing forest health programs funded by the GGRF. Finally, the $80 million allocation for the development of statewide LiDAR maps can help the state target its investments in forest management.
Managing the state’s climate-fueled wildfire threat requires both emergency fire suppression and risk reduction actions. Governor Newsom’s budget continues to move the state toward a useful balance of these efforts.