Today's Law As Amended

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AB-19 Forestry and fire protection: local assistance grant program: fire prevention activities: street and road vegetation management.(2019-2020)

As Amends the Law Today

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) The deadly Carr Fire in northern California has been determined to be the eighth largest wildfire in the state’s history, and is similar to the Cloverdale Fire that burned 100 acres in San Pasqual Valley in north San Diego County in that arson investigators have determined that both of these wildfires were believed to be caused by sparks from vehicles.
(b) Vehicles are a top cause of wildfires in San Diego County, according to a recent article published by the County News Center. Citing data from the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the article indicated that approximately 97 of the wildfires that occurred in 2018 in the county were caused by vehicles.
(c) Vehicles spark fires for a variety of reasons, including, among other things, poorly maintained engines, failing catalytic converters, flat tires’ rims and dragging metal chains from vehicles scraping the pavement and generating sparks, improperly maintained brakes and oil systems, and hot vehicles coming into contact and igniting brush and other vegetation.
(d) The Carr Fire is believed to have been started accidentally by a vehicle towing a dual-axle travel trailer when the steel rim of a flat tire of the trailer scraped along the pavement and generated sparks that ignited dry vegetation along the edge of the highway.
(e) Wind caused the Carr Fire to spread quickly, while hot conditions and steep, inaccessible terrain presented challenges for fire crews as they strengthened fire containment lines.
(f) The Department of Transportation (Caltrans) implements vegetation control measures on state highway roadsides in order to maintain clear recovery zones, maintain clear areas around bridge supports, maintain visibility of traffic control devices, reduce the risk of fires starting along roadsides, protect pavement surfaces, control noxious weeds, prevent erosion, limit stormwater pollution, protect sensitive species, and improve the aesthetics of roadways.
(g) According to Caltrans, vegetation should be controlled where necessary for fire prevention, safety, reduction of noxious or invasive weeds, and bridge inspection needs. Removal of vegetation is generally restricted to a narrow band adjacent to the edges of the shoulders and median, which is necessary to provide sight distance and protection of highway appurtenances such as guardrails and signs.
(h) County maintenance crews work every day to keep county roads safe and passable, which requires constant maintenance work, including repairing damaged pavement, cleaning and repairing signs, cleaning drainage channels, mowing grass and removing vegetation, removing landslides, and responding to public complaints and requests.
(i) In order to prevent future wildfire catastrophes that may be ignited by a vehicle stopped along the shoulder of a road, it is in the state’s best interest to invest in and assist with widening defensible space along county roadways.
SEC. 2.
 (a) The sum of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) is hereby appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to be used to provide grants pursuant to Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 4124) of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code.
(b) In addition to the priorities established by Sections 4124.5 and 4124.7 of the Public Resources Code, for purposes of the appropriation made by subdivision (a), the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shall prioritize projects that meet both of the following:
(1) Manage vegetation along streets and roads to prevent the ignition of wildfires.
(2) Need the funds for purposes of purchasing equipment necessary for the project.