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Independent Voice

Committee Approves Sen. Dodd’s Roadside Wildfire Safety Bill

Apr 10, 2024 11:38AM ● By Office of Senator Bill Dodd News Release
Bill Dodd. Courtesy photo


SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - On April 3, legislation advanced from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would help safeguard Californians from wildfires and protect the environment by streamlining the process for clearing combustible brush and trees alongside roads.

“Roadside ignitions are a significant source of wildfires when a spark from a passing vehicle, or cigarette comes into contact with dry brush and grass,” Sen. Dodd said. “Vegetation management along roads is highly effective at limiting the spread of these ignitions and also decreases the potential for an existing wildfire to spread across a road.”

Under current state law, brush clearing for fire-prevention purposes is exempt from provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act if it is conducted within 30 feet of a structure. That distance can be extended to 100 feet of a structure if extra-hazardous fire conditions exist.

Sen. Dodd’s new proposal, Senate Bill 1159, would require the Natural Resources Agency to consider granting a CEQA exemption to roadside vegetation management projects undertaken solely for wildfire risk reduction. Expediting these projects would reduce the possibility of roadside fires and improve evacuation routes, among other benefits. Also, eliminating red tape would decrease costs to treat roadside areas that currently present a financial burden to small agencies and under-resourced communities.

SB 1159 cleared the Senate Environmental Quality committee on April 3 with unanimous support.

“Wildfire is a peril that threatens both lives and homes throughout,” said Dave Winnacker, chief of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District and member of the California Fire Chiefs Association. “Few areas are more critical than roadsides near populated areas. Commonsense legislation that streamlines the approval process to maintain these areas will allow more of our limited wildfire risk-reduction resources to be used for fuel mitigation work while reducing the time required for planning and approvals. We appreciate Sen. Dodd’s continued leadership in this area and look forward to this legislation being enacted.”

 

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