Code Section Group

Public Resources Code - PRC

DIVISION 4. FORESTS, FORESTRY AND RANGE AND FORAGE LANDS [4001 - 4958]

  ( Division 4 repealed and added by Stats. 1965, Ch. 1144. )

PART 2. PROTECTION OF FOREST, RANGE AND FORAGE LANDS [4101 - 4789.7]

  ( Part 2 added by Stats. 1965, Ch. 1144. )

CHAPTER 7. Burning of Lands [4461 - 4497.2]

  ( Chapter 7 added by Stats. 1965, Ch. 1144. )

ARTICLE 2. Department of Forestry Burning Agreements [4475 - 4483]
  ( Heading of Article 2 amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 624, Sec. 8. )

4475.
  

(a) The director may enter into an agreement, including a grant agreement, for prescribed burning or other hazardous fuel reduction that is consistent with this chapter and the regulations of the board with any person to conduct prescribed burning operations and joint prescribed burning operations that serve the public interest and are beneficial to the state. To be considered for the public interest and beneficial to the state, each prescribed burn shall be for any of the following purposes, or any combination of those purposes:

(1) Prevention of high-intensity wildland fires through reduction of the volume and continuity of wildland fuels.

(2) Watershed management.

(3) Range improvement.

(4) Vegetation management.

(5) Forest improvement.

(6) Wildlife habitat improvement.

(7) Air quality maintenance.

(b) For the purposes of this article and consistent with subdivision (c), “person” includes, but is not limited to, private or nongovernmental entities, Native American tribes, or local, state, and federal public agencies. For purposes of this article, “person” shall also include the plural when the department determines an agreement needs to contain two or more persons as defined in this section.

(c) The Legislature finds and declares that historically, the department conducted prescribed burns only utilizing its own personnel and therefore was liable for any damages resulting from the burn. However, to reach the statewide prescribed burn goals identified in the “California Forest Carbon Plan: Managing our Forest Landscapes in a Changing Climate,” to limit the threat of catastrophic wildfire, and to improve forest health, the department may have a smaller role on individual prescribed burns with a cooperator taking more control as authorized by the act adding this subdivision. This cooperator control may range from creating the burn plan to being the burn boss and conducting the burn.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 624, Sec. 9. (SB 1260) Effective January 1, 2019.)

4476.
  

An agreement that is entered into pursuant to this article shall do all of the following:

(a) Vest in the director the final authority to determine the time during which wildland fuel and structural fire hazards may be burned to minimize the risk of escape of a fire set in a prescribed burning operation and to facilitate maintenance of air quality.

(b) Designate an officer of the department or a burn boss certified pursuant to Section 4477 as the burn boss with final authority to approve and amend the plan and formula applicable to a prescribed burning operation, to determine that the site has been prepared and the crew and equipment are ready to commence the operation, and to supervise the work assignments of departmental employees and all personnel furnished by the person contracting with the department until the prescribed burning is completed and all fire is declared to be out.

(c) Specify the duties of, and the precautions taken by, the person contracting with the department and any personnel furnished by that person.

(d) Provide that any personnel furnished by a person contracting with the department to assist in any aspect of site preparation or prescribed burning or other hazardous fuel reduction shall be an agent of that person for all purposes of workers’ compensation. However, any volunteer recruited or used by the department to suppress a wildland fire originating or spreading from a prescribed burning operation is an employee of the department for all purposes of workers’ compensation.

(e) (1) Provide that the department may, in its discretion, purchase a third-party liability policy of insurance that provides coverage against loss resulting from a wildland fire sustained by any person or public agency, including the federal government. The amount of the policy, if purchased, shall be determined by the director. The policy shall name the person contracting with the department and the department as joint policyholders. A certificate of insurance, if purchased, covering each policy shall be attached to or become a part of the agreements. If the department elects not to purchase insurance, with respect to liability arising out of performance of the agreement, the department shall, in the agreement, either (A) indemnify and hold harmless the person contracting with the department, (B) provide a maximum dollar amount of liability for the department, or (C) provide for the proportionate share of liability between the department and the person contracting with the department.

(2) If the department chooses to use option (B) or (C) as allowed pursuant to paragraph (1), the department shall determine the maximum amount of liability or proportionate share of liability for each prescribed burn conducted pursuant to this article using factors including, but not limited to, department involvement with the planning and conducting the prescribed burn, fire hazard severity, assets at risk from a wildfire without the prescribed burn being conducted, wildlife habitat, and watershed values. When using a proportionate share of liability as allowed in (C) pursuant to paragraph (1), the maximum percentage of liability for the person contracting with the department shall be 75 percent. This section does not preclude the department from purchasing an insurance policy to cover the maximum amount of state liability or state proportionate share of liability in the contract.

(f) Provide that the department shall be fully responsible for prescribed burns initiated at the department’s request, with the consent of the landowner, for training or other purposes on lands owned by a nonprofit organization or other public agencies.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 624, Sec. 12. (SB 1260) Effective January 1, 2019.)

4477.
  

(a) On or before January 1, 2021, the State Fire Marshal, with the involvement of the Statewide Training and Education Advisory Committee, shall develop a curriculum for, or amend into an existing curriculum, a certification program for burn bosses, who, pursuant to Section 4476, possess authority to engage in a prescribed burning operation and to enter into the necessary contracts related to a prescribed burning operation. The curriculum shall provide for the initial certification as well as the continuing education of burn bosses. It is the intent of the Legislature that this curriculum become a regular part of the training of firefighters conducted by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and all other appropriate accredited training providers.

(b) In addition to the curriculum and certification program developed pursuant to subdivision (a), the department shall develop a training program for prescribed fire users to certify professionals in any agency or organization as burn bosses. The department shall certify these individuals to a common standard. It is the intent of the Legislature that the department use its discretion to ensure that burn bosses are thoroughly qualified to engage in prescribed burning operations prior to issuing certifications.

(Repealed and added by Stats. 2018, Ch. 624, Sec. 14. (SB 1260) Effective January 1, 2019.)

4479.
  

(a) Liability for any costs incurred by the department in suppressing any wildland fire originating or spreading from a prescribed burning operation conducted pursuant to an agreement entered into pursuant to this article shall be governed by subdivision (c) of Section 13009 of the Health and Safety Code.

(b) This section shall not apply when the department is applying for federal assistance.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 624, Sec. 16. (SB 1260) Effective January 1, 2019.)

4480.
  

In any area of the state where there are substantially more requests for prescribed burning operations or other hazardous fuel reduction pursuant to this article than can be conducted directly by the department in a single fiscal year, the director may enter into an agreement with private consultants or contractors or with other public agencies for furnishing all or a part of the state’s share of the responsibility for planning the operation, preparing the site, and conducting the prescribed burning or other hazardous fuel reduction. The private consultant or contractor or other public agency, and the work assignments of its employees, shall be supervised by the burn boss when conducting prescribed burning operations, or designated officer as determined by the department when conducting other hazardous fuel reduction, as provided in subdivision (c) of Section 4476.

(Amended by Stats. 2018, Ch. 624, Sec. 17. (SB 1260) Effective January 1, 2019.)

4483.
  

(a) To the extent feasible, the board’s Vegetation Treatment Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Report, when certified, shall serve, in addition to any identified entities in the report, as the programmatic environmental document for prescribed fires initiated by a third party for a public purpose pursuant to Section 4491.

(b) (1) It is the intent of the Legislature that additional consideration be provided for chaparral and coastal sage scrub plant communities that are being increasingly threatened by fire frequency in excess of their natural fire return patterns due to climate change and human-caused fires.

(2) Prescribed burning, mastication, herbicide application, mechanical thinning, or other vegetative treatments of chaparral or sage scrub shall occur only if the department finds that the activity will not cause “type conversion” away from the chaparral and coastal sage scrub currently on site.

(3) This subdivision shall be in addition to the requirements in the Vegetation Treatment Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Report.

(Added by Stats. 2018, Ch. 624, Sec. 18. (SB 1260) Effective January 1, 2019.)

PRCPublic Resources Code - PRC2