SACRAMENTO, Calif.—This afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom signed CCA-sponsored Senate Bill 332 (Dodd), legislation which incentivizes the application of prescribed fire by minimizing prescribed fire practitioners’ exposure to liability. SB 332 previously passed through the State Legislature without recording a single “no” vote.
Under existing law, when CAL FIRE responds to a prescribed fire that becomes uncontrolled or escapes containment lines, the agency can seek ‘cost recovery’ from the prescribed burner for the agency’s fire-suppression costs. SB 332 will immunize prescribed fire practitioners against this cost recovery unless the practitioner acts in a grossly negligent manner.
According to prescribed fire experts, this immunity from cost recovery will remove a significant disincentive to burners’ use of prescribed fire – thereby incentivizing greater application of prescribed fire.
This is merely the latest good news in CCA’s efforts to incentivize greater application of prescribed fire within California. On September 23, Governor Newsom signed SB 170, the “budget bill junior,” which included a $20 million Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot Program to “support coverage for losses from permitted prescribed fires by non-public entities.” CCA was a strong supporter of a prescribed fire claims fund throughout the Legislature’s budget deliberations. Indeed, the Pilot Program achieves a goal CCA initially sought to achieve via SB 332 as the bill was written upon introduction in February: shielding prescribed burners from liability for injury to property or persons caused by an escaped prescribed fire.
CCA applauds Governor Newsom’s signature and thanks Senator Dodd for authoring this vital piece of legislation. CCA also wishes to thank members of CCA’s Fire Subcommittee, Lenya Quinn-Davidson of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council and Michael Wara of Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment for their immense contributions to SB 332 and for their ceaseless support for the bill.
Most importantly, CCA thanks you, our members, for your enduring support and for encouraging your representatives in the California Legislature to support Senate Bill 332.