Smith chairs committee’s wildfire informational hearing

Drift smoke from regional wildfires makes its way into the Centre Pointe area of Santa Clarita Thursday afternoon. Austin Dave/The Signal

The Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, which is chaired by Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, held an informational hearing Tuesday to analyze the best firefighting practices as the state prepares for the upcoming wildfire season.

California wildlands are now classified as being under “very high” or “extreme” fire threat and approximately 11 million people, or a quarter of the state’s population, live in the declared high-risk area, Smith said prior to the committee’s hearing, which was titled, “The 2019 Wildfire Season: Are We Prepared?”

During the hearing, representatives of local governments, fire chiefs and firefighters joined officials from statewide offices to testify on what’s necessary to allow the state to have the best firefighting practices.

Those who spoke specifically touched on the need for better resources, updated technology and increased staffing Tuesday.

This includes bringing in the telecom community’s technological improvements that will allow the state to enhance its mutual aid system, Smith said during the hearing. “But I also think critically we do need to look at staffing. Because we can pay for staffing now or we can pay for rebuilding later, and that’s a cost-benefit analysis that I think it’s time to make.”

“Californians know too well the destruction and anxiety associated with wildfires, which are becoming increasingly frequent and fierce,” Smith said as she thanked the state’s firefighters for their service and protection.

“The California State Legislature will rise to the challenge as we look at what we need to do to better prepare for and prevent wildfires. This hearing is the first of many steps we will take to safeguard our communities,” she said.

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