Legislature backs bill to aid wildfire mitigation workers

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Assembly Bill 1717 to help ensure workers get paid fairly and trained well for dangerous work in mitigating fires has cleared the Legislature.

The state in 2021 had 8,786 active wildfires that burned approximately 4,015 square miles (2.569 million acres), destroyed 3,629 structures and took the lives of three California residents, according to statistics provided by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s office.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Legislature appropriated $1.5 billion in the 2021-22 budget toward wildfire prevention in an effort to protect California communities from wildfires, and additionally ensured multiple-year funding toward wildfire mitigation by requiring that $200 million from the greenhouse gas reduction fund be spent annually on wildfire mitigation until 2028.

“We know that wildfires in California are only getting worse. Last year, all six counties in my district were on fire at once,” Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters and author of AB 1717, said in a press release. “It’s simply unacceptable that we have such a clear need for these types of projects and don’t pay or train our workers well. On top of that, we have a worker shortage, and one that is not going to be solved by underpaying hardworking Californians for doing this dangerous and essential work.”

AB 1717 would expand the definition of public works to include fuel reduction work performed as part of a wildfire mitigation project, including, but not limited to, residential chipping, rural road fuel breaks, fire breaks and vegetation management.

This bill passed the Assembly on a 54-6 vote. It now goes to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes Dixon, rural Green Valley near Fairfield, rural Allendale outside Vacaville and rural Winters in Solano County as well as all of Napa and Lake counties, all of Yolo County except West Sacramento, and parts of Colusa and Sonoma counties.

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