Senator Jackson’s bill requiring fire-safe building advances

Courtesy of Hannah-Beth Jackson /via Facebook

As California grapples with catastrophic wildfires as well as a housing crisis, legislation by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) that puts in place standards and guidelines for building responsibly when building in very high fire risk areas passed out of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on a bipartisan, 7-0 vote.

SB 182 now heads to the Assembly Local Government Committee.

“California’s residents and homes remain under threat of wildfire and we cannot continue with business as usual. At the same time, our state must thoughtfully address our significant housing shortage. SB 182 will ensure that preventing wildfires becomes an intrinsic part of our local planning process and that we help prevent wildfire and its devastation by design, without compromising on our housing goals,” Jackson, who is vice chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, said in a statement. “Combined with my prior legislation to better manage our forests and hillsides, I believe this legislation will help save lives and make our communities more fire resilient.”

Without compromising regional affordable housing goals, Senate Bill 182 requires that communities at a very high risk of being devastated by wildfires plan and build any new homes or construction in a manner that maximizes fire prevention.

The bill:

  • Encourages new home and other construction in fire-safe areas.
  • Ensures, when construction happens in very high fire risk areas, that it meet new wildfire risk reduction standards established by the State Fire Marshal. These standards will include hardened homes, evacuation routes, defensible space for homes and communities, and sufficient availability of water and fire response. SB 182 will also prohibit cities and counties from approving any new construction unless wildfire risk reduction standards are met.
  • Requires that communities update their General Plans to identify local very high fire risk areas and specify goals and policies to protect residents from unreasonable wildfire risk.
  • Requires that high fire-prone communities develop an outdoor warning system.
  • Requires that local communities comply with defensible space, vegetation management, local fire plans, and other wildfire prevention efforts.
  • Directs cities and counties to develop a plan and determine how to finance and fund the hardening of existing homes and construction they have determined are vulnerable to wildfire.

More than three million Californians currently live in high-risk wildfire areas, even as the areas at risk of wildfire are expanding.

Flying embers can destroy a home up to a mile away from a wildfire. Home hardening improvements make a home more resistant to wildfires by such actions as replacing a wood roof with fire-resistant materials such as composition, metal or tile, covering vent openings with mesh wire, installing dual-paned windows, and other efforts.

Last year, Jackson authored SB 1260, landmark legislation to improve California forest management practices to reduce the risk of wildfires in light of our changing climate. SB 1260 cleared the path for greater and more frequent wildfire fuel reduction and prescribed burns, set air quality standards for prescribed burns, and allowed California’s fire agency to provide input during the planning of new home construction in fire hazard areas.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County. Her community was impacted by the devastating 2017 Thomas Fire.

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