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AB-1956 Fire prevention activities.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 04/16/2018 09:00 PM

Amended  IN  Assembly  April 16, 2018
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 05, 2018


Assembly Bill No. 1956

Introduced by Assembly Member Limón

January 29, 2018

An act to add Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 4124) to Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 4 of, and to repeal Section 4123 of, the Public Resources Code, relating to fire prevention.


AB 1956, as amended, Limón. Fire prevention activities.
Existing law requires the director of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish a working group, consisting of specified members, to identify potential incentives for landowners to implement prefire activities, as defined, in state responsibility areas and urban wildland communities and to identify all federal, state, or local programs, private programs, and any other programs requiring a cost share that involves prefire activities.
This bill would revise and recast this law to, among other things, revise the membership and duties of the working group.
Existing law requires the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish a local assistance grant program using funds collected from a specified fire prevention fee for purposes of fire prevention activities designed to benefit habitable structures within state responsibility areas, as provided.
This bill would require the department, on or before July 1, 2019, to establish a local assistance grant program, funded upon appropriation by the Legislature, for fire prevention activities, as defined. The bill would require the department to prioritize projects that are multiyear efforts to, among other things, improve resiliency on the landscape and adapt landscapes to withstand increased frequency and intensity of large wildfires.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


 (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(1) The 2017 fire season was devastating. Over 1.3 million acres burned in high-severity wildfires and over 10,000 structures were destroyed by wildfires across the state.
(2) Forty-three Forty-four people died in the 2017 fire season, higher than the last 10 years combined.
(3) Last year’s Thomas Fire in the Counties of Ventura and Santa Barbara was the largest recorded fire in California history. There were also significant fires throughout the state, including in the Counties of Los Angeles, Napa, and Sonoma.
(4) CAL-FIRE and the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection have recognized that California now often experiences a year-round fire season, with an increase in both the number and the intensity of large, damaging wildfires.
(5) The increased frequency and intensity of large wildfires is due to a century of fire exclusion and the impacts of climate change.
(6) Governor Brown has declared these wildfire threats as the “new normal” in California.
(b) It is therefore the intent of the Legislature to increase the scale and pace of fire prevention activities and to ensure that fire prevention activities happen year round.

SEC. 2.

 Section 4123 of the Public Resources Code is repealed.

SEC. 3.

 Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 4124) is added to Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code, to read:
Article  2.5. Year-Round Fire Prevention Act of 2018

 (a) On or before July 1, 2019, the director shall establish a working group that consists of the following members:
(1) The director or his or her designee.
(2) The chair of the board or his or her designee.
(3) Two members representing the state conservancies, appointed by the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency.
(4) Three representatives from local governments including from a county, a city, and a resource conservation district.
(5) Two representatives from the University of California Cooperative Extension.
(6) Two representatives of industries with experience in state forestry and fire prevention policy.
(7) Three representatives from nongovernmental conservation groups with experience in fire prevention policy.
(b) The director shall appoint the members designated in paragraphs (4) to (7), inclusive, of subdivision (a). The members of the committee working group shall serve at the pleasure of their respective appointing powers.
(c) The members shall serve without compensation, except that each of the members shall be reimbursed for his or her actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of his or her duties.
(d) The chairperson of the working group shall be the director or his or her designee.
(e) The working group established pursuant to subdivision (a) shall do all of the following:
(1) Identify potential incentives for landowners to implement fire prevention activities in state responsibility areas and other areas identified by the director as very high fire hazard severity zones pursuant to Section 51178 of the Government Code.
(2) Identify all federal, state, local, or private programs that involve fire prevention activities.
(3) Identify new methods of fire prevention that protect life and property or improve ecosystem resiliency.
(4) Review activities funded by the local assistance grant program, established in Section 4124.5, and its outcomes, and discuss and recommend possible improvements to the program.
(5) Identify new sources and methods of financing fire prevention activities.
(f) (1) The department shall report the findings of the working group to the appropriate policy committees of the Legislature on or before July 1, 2021. The department shall include in the report any recommendations identified by the working group for consideration by the Legislature.
(2) The requirement for submitting a report imposed under paragraph (1) is inoperative on July 1, 2025, pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code.
(g) For the purposes of this section, “fire prevention activities” means those lawful activities that reduce the risk of wildfire, including mechanical vegetation management, grazing, prescribed burns, creation of defensible space, and retrofitting of structures to increase fire resistance.

 (a) On or before July 1, 2019, the department shall establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities. Groups eligible for grants shall include local agencies, resource conservation districts, fire safe councils, the California Conservation Corps, certified local conservation corps, University of California Cooperative Extension, and qualified nonprofit organizations.
(b) The local assistance grant program shall establish a robust year-round fire prevention effort in and nearby fire threatened communities. The department shall prioritize projects that are multiyear efforts that do any of the following:
(1) Improve resiliency on the landscape.
(2) Adapt landscapes to withstand increased frequency and intensity of large wildfires.
(3) Provide improved ecological outcomes, including, but not limited to, restoring watershed health and function and supporting biodiversity and wildlife adaption to climate change.
(c) Eligible activities shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) Public Development and implementation of public education and outreach programs. Programs may include technical assistance, workforce recruitment and training, and equipment purchases.
(2) Fire prevention activities as defined in Section 4124.
(3) Projects to improve compliance with defensible space requirements as required by Section 4291 through increased inspections and assistance for low-income residents.
(4) Technical assistance to local agencies to improve fire prevention and reduce fire hazards.
(5) Creation of additional “Firewise USA” communities in the state.
(d) The department shall work cooperatively with grant recipients to ensure their projects are compatible and complementary with the department’s fire prevention activities and the forest health grant program pursuant to Section 4799.05.
(e) The department shall consider the fire risk of an area and the geographic balance of projects when awarding local assistance grants.
(f) The director may authorize advance payments from a grant awarded pursuant to this section. The advance shall not exceed 25 percent of the total grant award.
(g) The department may expand or amend an existing grant program to meet the requirements of this section.
(h) Funding for the local assistance grant program created pursuant to this section shall be made upon appropriation by the Legislature.