Focus Remains on Prevention, Utility Safety 5 Years after 2017 Wildfires
NAPA – In the five years since record wildfires caused the tragic loss of life and property in the North Bay, Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, has remained focused on addressing the climate-worsened threat by enacting commonsense legislation to help prevent future infernos, harden the electric utility grid and increase access and affordability of insurance.
“We won’t soon forget that tragic day five years ago when we were awakened by catastrophic wildfires that changed our worlds forever,” Sen. Dodd said. “Nor will we let down our guard on the growing wildfire threat, which is worsened by our warming climate. In fact, we have made good progress on prevention, increasing electric utility safety and insurance reform. Five years on, California continues to face these fires, but we are in a better position to keep our communities safe.”
Sen. Dodd, whose family evacuated from their Napa home the morning of Oct. 9, 2017, has played a leading role in post-fire legislation, writing more than a dozen bills addressing critical areas including improving insurance coverage, enhancing fire prevention and suppression, and stepping up oversight of electric utilities and ratepayer protection. He has been recognized for his action in these areas.
“Sen. Dodd has, since the tragedies of 2017, been a standout leader in pushing for fundamental change in our wildfire and utility policies to make the communities he represents safer,” said Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy program at Stanford University. “Sen. Dodd has built strong, bi-partisan consensus, time and again, on wildfire legislation that is smart, practical, and targeted to deliver both short term safety and long term resilience for Californians.”
Highlights of Sen. Dodd’s bills are:
Senate Bill 894 (2018) Property Insurance Reform: Requires insurers to renew property insurance for at least 24 months after a natural disaster and extends additional living expenses.
SB 901 (2018) Wildfire Preparedness and Response: Sets forth the requirements for electric utility wildfire mitigation planning such as de-energizing of electric utility power lines in extreme weather and required a general hardening of the utility grid; protected ratepayers by authorizing the use of ratepayer protection bonds for utilities; required better forest management practices, increased fuel reduction efforts.
SB 190 (2019) Building Standards and Defensible Space: Directs the state fire marshal to develop model defensive space standards that local governments could voluntarily use as part of their zoning codes.
SB 209 (2019) Wildfire Prevention: Establishes the Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center to serve as the state’s central hub for wildfire forecasting, weather information, and threat intelligence, and analysis.
SB 247 (2019) Vegetation management: Requires audits of the clearing of vegetation from utility lines – the cause of numerous deadly fires.
SB 332 (2021) Prescribed fire and liability protection: Adds legal protections for those who conduct burns for public benefit, including a number of groups who had been reluctant or unable to employ the practice because of dwindling insurance options and other complex barriers.
SB 109 (2021) Wildfire suppression innovation: Creates the Office of Wildfire Technology Research and Development to work with public, private and nonprofit entities to study, produce and test innovative firefighting technologies and make recommendations to Cal Fire.
SB 926 (2022) Prescribed fire fund: Operationalizes $20 million fund to cover prescribed fire liability and enhance use of the time-tested fire prevention tool.
SB 896 (2022) Defensible space inspections: Establishes ability for inspections to determine compliance with defensible space laws to enhance public safety.
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.