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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 8:18 am | Fair 54º


Limón’s Wildfire Prevention Bills to Become Law

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law three wildfire-related bills authored by Assemblymember Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara.

AB 1877, AB 1956 and AB 1981 are a response to the record-breaking wildfires experienced across the state over the past 12 months. The new laws take effect Jan. 1.

This year, the Legislature has been working diligently to find solutions to problems due to wildfires affecting Californians up and down the state.

“My district was largely affected by wildfires, and as legislators it is our responsibility to find pre and post solutions that work,” Limón said.

“Among the issues raised this year were language barriers in a state of emergency situation, need to increase local fire prevention assistance resources, and the need to prevent soil erosion in post-fire burnt lands,” she said.

“AB 1877 incentivizes alerting-authorities to translate emergency notifications and establishes a process to move us towards having emergency communications translated into the most commonly spoken language other than English,” she said.

Communities in Limón’s district experienced firsthand the emergency communication process during the devastating Thomas Fire, which burned more than 281,000 acres and forced some 104,000 residents to evacuate.

Delays in timely and accurate communication left many community members feeling unsafe and unsure whether to evacuate. It was evident the communication needs of individuals who speak languages other than English were not being sufficiently incorporated into emergency plans.

“With 44 percent of Californians over the age of five speaking a language other than English at home, it is vital that emergency communications are made available in languages other than English,” said Limón.

With the threat of climate change, weather scientists have also warned we will continue to see an increase in frequency and intensity of large wildfires.

“As we rebuild, we must also look to how to prevent these fires from happening in the first place,” Limón said.

AB 1956 creates a robust year-round fire prevention local assistance grant program and directs California to increase the scale and pace of fire prevention activities to ensure those activities happen year-round.

“Earlier this year we were able to secure $10 million in funding for these efforts that will go toward reducing the impacts future fires will have on our communities,” said Limón.

Part of the wildfire recovery efforts include dealing with severely burned areas. The most immediate consequence of wildfires is the potential for soil erosion.

“My district was witness to this phenomenon due to the Thomas Fire and the subsequent debris flow,” Limón said.

Intense heat from fire can make the soil repel water, a condition called hydrophobicity. Studies show that compost application on burned lands can improve soil absorption and act as a slope stabilizer that significantly reduces the risk of erosion.

In addition, woody biomass from dead and dying trees that would pose a fire risk, make an excellent feedstock for compost products. As the threat of fire continues, it is important for the proper agencies to have a conversation on how compost can be used in post-fire recovery efforts.

“Compost done right has the potential of reducing the risk of post-fire catastrophes, such as the debris flows experience after the Thomas fire” said Limón. "I want to thank the governor for signing these three important bills into law.

“Our work on this issue is not over, and as California experiences the worst fires in history we will continue to take important steps to further address fire prevention, management, and restoration practices along with other state priorities.”

Limón represents the 37th Assembly District which includes Santa Barbara, Ventura, Goleta, Carpinteria, Ojai, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Buellton, Solvang, Summerland, Isla Vista, Montecito and parts of Oxnard.

— Christina Montoya for Assemblymember Monique Limón.


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