William Neville: Fixing the wildland/interface fire problem
Let me suggest some things our newly elected governor, Assembly and Senate should consider if they are serious about mitigating the urban-wildland fire problem:
1. Submit, for voter approval, a program to re-designate funds (approaching $100 billion) now directed to the “Super Train” to wildfire mitigation programs.
2. Rethink the state forest maintenance priorities, making fire safety, rather than virgin forests, the priority issue (no cost).
3. Provide low cost loans (from Super Train Account?) to utility companies to move all power lines in the urban-wildland fire interface underground by a certain date ($10 billion to be repaid – attainment 10 years*).
4. Provide funding (from Super Train Account?) and take necessary legislative steps to allow fire protection agencies to fly fire sensing drones over wildland and urban-wildland fire areas anytime a “Red Flag Day” is declared ($100 million — attainment two years* ).
5. Provide funding (from Super Train Account?) to increase the number of California Office of Emergency Services fire engines “loaned” to local fire agencies so those agencies have sufficient equipment to dispatch on mutual-aid assignments around the state without decimating their own fire protection capabilities. Those engines should be dual designed to function in the rural as well as urban environments ($100 million — attainment two years*).
6. Provide funding (from Super Train Account?) for California Office of Emergency Services to buy retired military helicopters, repurpose them for fire and rescue purposes, then loan them to those local fire agencies currently operating helicopter programs, to use, with recalled off-duty local agency pilots, for pre-positioning in effected areas where and when “Red Flag Days” are declared ($100 million — attainment four years*).
7. Provide funding (from Super Train Account?) for local fire agencies with wildland-interface issues to bring staffing to max levels (using off-duty personnel) during “Red Flag Days” in their region ($100 million — attainment two years*).
8. Provide funding (from Super Train Account?) for a program to hire the willing/able homeless to clear debris from the forests while providing food and shelter for themselves and families ($10 million — attainment two years*).
9. Utilize Super Train account monies to build/improve escape routes from urban/wildland communities ($30 billion — attainment five years).
10. Use the funds left over in the Super Train account to mitigate the state’s drought issues by: building saltwater desalination plants up and down California; building additional reservoirs; providing low cost loans to convert all traditional commercial irrigation to Israeli type low demand irrigation systems ($50 billion — attainment five years *).
There is an obvious downside to these proposals: Gov. Jerry Brown will be left without a significant legacy — but I propose to medicate that calamity — the state should build a high-tech mirror to reflect the moon’s beams all the way from SF to LA, illuminating the unfinished Super Train Bridges to nowhere — there should be plenty of funding left over from the Super Train account to accomplish this.
I am personally convinced that the former governor would hardily endorse this plan.
*All funding and attainment dates are certified by the Super Train Accounting Group.
William Neville lives in Grass Valley.
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