USA — As part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ongoing commitment to emergency preparedness, today he issued Executive Order S-07-10, which mobilizes the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to secure and deploy additional resources and personnel necessary to save lives and protect homes statewide from wildfires.
“I’m proud that California has the bravest, best-trained and hardest-working firefighters in the world. Last year we had more than 7,000 wildfires burn throughout our state and they fought back every single one,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Today’s Executive Order directs CAL FIRE to immediately mobilize additional personnel and equipment, meaning more firefighters, more engines, more helicopters and more planes. We will not be caught off-guard or under-equipped. When Mother Nature strikes, we will be ready.”
As part of the Executive Order, the Governor directed state agencies, including the California Emergency Management Agency, California National Guard, California Conservation Corps, and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to coordinate their actions with federal and local agencies, prepositioning resources and maximizing California’s fire prevention and fighting capabilities.
Last week, the Governor joined Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons and Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski in signing a tri-state proclamation declaring May 1 to 8 as “Wildfire Awareness Week.”
Below is text of the Governor’s Executive Order:
WHEREAS climate change has impacted California’s weather patterns and fuel conditions, resulting in an increased risk of wildfire; and
WHEREAS California is only beginning to recover from three years of below-normal precipitation; and
WHEREAS dead, dying and diseased trees resulting from the extended drought have contributed to heavy loads of combustible fuel; and
WHEREAS recent winter snowfall accompanied by low temperatures and high winds has caused significant damage to vegetation, further increasing dead fuel loads; and
WHEREAS these fuel loads create an imminent threat of catastrophic fires resulting in peril to lives and property; and
WHEREAS availability of federal fire-fighting aircraft continues to be limited; and
WHEREAS coordinated fire prevention, aggressive fuel reduction programs and strong initial attack resources are essential to protect lives, property and the environment in California; and
WHEREAS catastrophic wildfires cause harmful, secondary environmental effects, including increased emissions of air pollutants; impacted hillside slope and soil stability; and compromised populations and habitats of sensitive and endangered fish and wildlife species; and
WHEREAS, severe wildfire impacts how watersheds provide clean and reliable water supplies that are critical to California’s environment and economy; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that smoke from wildfires poses a number of health risks, including serious respiratory ailments, reaching far beyond the wildfire boundaries, which can irritate human respiratory systems and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases; and
WHEREAS the increased risk of catastrophic wildfires could significantly impact state efforts to reduce greenhouse gases due to significant uncontrolled emissions of greenhouse gases caused by wildfire; and
WHEREAS wildfire suppression costs only represent a very small portion of the overall fiscal impact of wildfires and do not reflect the true cost of wildfires; and
WHEREAS indirect costs and losses, and post fire-costs and losses can total 10 to 50 times the suppression costs; and
WHEREAS the State Employment Development Department estimates that thousands of workers have been unemployed as a result of past wildfire disasters in California, prompting the need for immediate financial assistance; and
WHEREAS immediate action is needed to respond to these conditions.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the Constitution and statutes of the State of California, do hereby issue the following orders to become effective immediately:
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) shall secure and deploy additional resources that are necessary, as determined by the Director, to protect the safety of persons and property from wildfires during periods of elevated fire risk as follows:
(a) Staff additional fire crews, fire engines, helitack crews, fire bulldozers, equipment and aviation resources as warranted based on fire threat conditions.
(b) Assign a crew of four firefighters to selected CAL FIRE fire engines as warranted based on fire threat conditions.
(c) Assign additional resources in the CAL FIRE Contract Counties as warranted based on fire threat conditions.
(d) Coordinate with the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) and the California National Guard for those military resources that may be available for assistance during emergencies in California.
(e) Assign additional fire safe inspectors where and when beneficial to assist with fire hazard reduction, conduct defensible space inspections, promote fire safe practices and increase public education and prevention programs.
(f) Provide for supplemental detection, including staffing for fire lookouts, during peak fire conditions.
(g) Increase staffing for command and control functions at CAL FIRE Unit Emergency Command Centers, Northern and Southern Operations Centers and the CAL FIRE Sacramento Coordination Center when necessary to respond to significant fire events.
(h) Assign additional staff as necessary to provide emergency incident support and burn area emergency assessment and response activities.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE utilize staff as necessary to support a heightened level of fire prevention public awareness and education utilizing CAL FIRE Volunteers in Prevention, Fire Safe Councils and the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE continue, within its authority, to expedite the processing of contracts and grants of federal funds to communities, and continue to support local and regional wildfire hazard mitigation and community emergency planning efforts.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Cal EMA shall, in consultation and coordination with CAL FIRE, and as fire threat conditions warrant, (a) deploy Cal EMA fire engine strike teams to ensure a substantial response capability to any wildland fire situation in California, with the costs of the deployment to be reimbursed consistent with the California Fire Service and Rescue Emergency Mutual Aid Plan and the California Fire Assistance Agreement; and (b) augment personnel at Cal EMA operations centers and emergency incident support teams as necessary to respond to significant fire events.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the California National Guard prepare to provide its aviation assets and hand crews and pre-position ground support equipment as appropriate for response to major wildfires, and report to Cal EMA on the status of all aircraft on a weekly basis.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, including the Division of Juvenile Justice, establish the highest priority for assignment of minimum custody or camp-approved inmates and wards to Conservation Camp Fire Crews.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the California Conservation Corps (CCC) report to CAL FIRE daily on the readiness of all CCC support crews for response to wildfires.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Cal EMA review the preparedness of State agencies and departments to assure readiness for response to wildfires.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE and Cal EMA work closely with federal, state and local government agencies, bordering states, and the Mexico Border States to maximize California’s fire prevention and firefighting capabilities and to provide appropriate reciprocal assistance when requested.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, to the extent authorized by applicable law, the purchasing authority of CAL FIRE and Cal EMA (and other State agencies and departments as deemed necessary by the Secretary of Cal EMA) shall be raised to $100,000 to expedite the contracts necessary to prepare and respond to emergencies during this fire season.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of General Services, in coordination with Cal EMA, shall establish short and long-term procurement mechanisms to secure the unique goods and services that may be required to support communities in an emergency.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Cal EMA, in consultation and coordination with the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency, initiate necessary preparedness and training efforts for local governments to ensure that post-fire watershed assessments, emergency protective measures, effective debris removal efforts, post-fire burn area assessments and mitigation efforts to evaluate potential hazards, are implemented to address needed remediation.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall provide educational information to homeowners on defensible space and California Building and Fire Codes ignition-resistant building materials, and shall develop training for defensible space inspection and building ignitability in consultation with the Department of Insurance, Cal EMA, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall conduct vigorous defensible space inspections pursuant to applicable authority.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that to assist landowners to meet their 100-foot defensible space requirements to reduce hazardous vegetation and landscaping, CAL FIRE, in consultation with the California Biomass/Biofuel Collaborative, may enter into contracts, agreements, and arrangements for the chipping, hauling, burning, or other methods of disposal of hazardous vegetation removed by landowners as required by Public Resources Code section 4291 and Government Code section 51182.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Cal EMA, in coordination with CAL FIRE, shall continue to support the development of fire hazard information and shall continue to make it available to the public.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Cal EMA shall assist local communities to help ensure that federal hazard mitigation grants are focused on the areas of greatest vulnerability in the wildland urban interface in California.
This Order is not intended to, and does not, create any rights or benefits, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, against the State of California, its agencies, departments, entities, officers, employees, or any other person.
I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this Order be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given to this Order.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 3rd day of May 2010.