Garcia hosts wildfire roundtable with fire, government leaders

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, right, hosts a wildfire roundtable with local and federal leaders to streamline firefighting efforts on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. Courtesy photo
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Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, led a roundtable Wednesday with local and federal leaders to discuss fire management amid the 3.1 million acres thus far consumed this year statewide by wildfires, including in the Lake Hughes area. 

Garcia, whose 25th District includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Simi valleys, was joined by James Hubbard, under secretary for the USDA’s Natural Resources and Environment; state. Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and representatives from Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Santa Clarita; County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; L.A. County Fire, U.S. Forest Service. 

The roundtable focused on improving and streamlining the response process to provide the right resources to the correct battlefronts. 

“We need to fight these fires like warriors; as one team and with overwhelming force,” said Garcia in a statement. “We need more brush clearance, more prescribed burns, and more large aerial tankers overhead sooner in the fight. All levels of government need to do everything they can to ensure our firefighting agencies get the resources they need.”

Garcia said that improved fire suppression consists of bringing fixed-wing assets earlier in the firefighting efforts, as well as brush clearance and controlled burns. 

“2020 has been a tough year already, and it’s hard to believe this but we’re actually not even into the official fire season yet,” he said in a previous tele-townhall, adding that he is working to get more large aerial tankers earlier in the firefighting process. “That’ll prevent things like the Tick Fire from spreading as fast as it did last year” in Canyon Country. 

“We are seeing unprecedented fire activity in California and across the West,” said Hubbard. 

He highlighted an agreement state and federal forest officials signed in August aimed at maintaining and restoring “healthy forests and rangelands that reduce public safety risks, protect natural and built infrastructure, and enhance ecological habitat and biological diversity,” according to the memo. 

More closely, the plan identifies a goal of burning, thinning or treating vegetation across “one million acres of forest and wildlands annually by 2025, committing to each sustainably treat 500,000 acres per year,” the agreement read. 

The roundtable comes after Garcia’s efforts to help bring federal aid to battle California’s wildfires. In late August, he announced that President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration, which provides much-needed aid and financial relief to residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed as a result of wildfires. 

To date, wildfires across California have charred 3.1 million acres, according to Cal Fire, including more than 31,000 acres near due to the Lake Fire in the Lake Hughes area last month. 

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