Stern, Senate Dems announce $1 billion wildfire-prevention package, legislation

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, during a virtual news conference Thursday, May 27, 2021.
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A group of seven state senators announced Thursday their “Blueprint for a Fire Safe California,” which includes 11 pieces of legislation and a $1 billion budget package geared toward wildfire preparedness and prevention. 

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, who represents parts of Santa Clarita, joined fellow members of the Senate’s Wildfire Working Group for a virtual news conference to announce the legislative and budget package. 

“It’s a very momentous occasion,” said Stern, calling the spending “transformative investments.” “I think this marks a moment that’s been years in the making.” 

Stern said he was personally impacted by the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which burned nearly 100,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.  

“In addition to some of the efforts we’ve highlighted today on forest management and health, hardening and people are really going to be part of the solution,” he said. “We’re investing now in the Senate co-equally in hardening alongside the fuels management piece.” 

Senate Bill 63, authored by Stern and part of the senate’s wildfire legislative package, would address fire prevention through “improved vegetation management and expanding the areas where enhanced fire safety building standards apply,” according to the bill. 

All bills included in the senators’ legislative package will be on the Senate floor in the coming week. 

“SB 63 is going to be a crucial part … by training a resiliency workforce in our communities by letting volunteers and community members get engaged,” Stern said. “It can’t just be home by home. It has to be a community at a time.” 

Stern also co-authored SB 12, which would add new building standards in very high-fire severity zones, with Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Sonoma, who is the chairman of the Senate’s Wildfire Working Group. 

“To just blindly build deeper and deeper into very high-fire severity zones, without any of those safety standards in place, will only exacerbate this risk further,” he said. 

In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom approved $536 million to prepare for California’s wildfire season.  

Locally, Stern said the new fire prevention grants have been doing more than removing brush.  

“We’re already establishing oak land buffers to slow down the spread of these embers to use nature as our ally in chaparral areas,” Stern said, “not as our enemy.” 

The additional $1 billion for wildfire preparedness and prevention proposed by the Senate will be heard in the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee on Tuesday. 

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