California Assemblyman Heath Flora (12th District) shared the state’s perspective of the wildfire problem at the 2021 Wildfire Prevention Summit. As a businessman with an agricultural upbringing and a career as a firefighter, Flora brings a uniquely broad perspective of the challenges facing his great state.
He spoke candidly about the lack of attention paid to preventing wildfire in the past, to clarify the crisis we now face as a nation. Going back to 2003, Assemblyman Flora reminded his audience of the Cedar Fire in San Diego, which was fueled by the extreme overgrowth of Chamise and Manzanita. He cited the following reasons for conditions deteriorating to where we are today:
- Environmentalists reject prescribed burns
- Property owners reject controlled burns
- Mechanical thinning is illegal
- Policymakers are at odds
Acknowledging that it took over a hundred years to get to this point, Flora shared some of the details of his legislative fight to allow best practices for wildfire suppression and prevention to be used in the state when necessary. “We will not get out of this until we put every option back on the table,” was more than a campaign promise. Pointing their collective finger at public utilities, the media neglected to mention the laws that have been enacted to prevent PG&E from managing the vegetation around power lines. What else don’t we know?
- Only a small percentage of wildfires are attributed to utility companies. (Fact check: 8%)
- Public Utilities Company has taken great strides to reduce ignitions. (This fact was echoed by several speakers throughout the Summit.)
- Did you know a single wildfire eliminated ten years of progress in reducing greenhouse gases? Ten years. (Fact check: It may not be fair to call the August Complex a single wildfire, as it was the result of several wildfires joined together in a massive wind event.)
Cal Trans reports that 86% of wildfires start as roadside fires. It’s why Flora fought for the passage of AB956, which authorizes the use of long-term fire retardant along roadsides. One person. One law. 86% fewer wildfires for California. All told, his leadership identifies Assemblyman Heath Flora as a champion for wildfire prevention—and an easy pick for the Spark Report’s first Hot Spot.