California’s Mutual Aid System needs a mechanism to reimburse local agencies for costs to “pre-position” firefighting resources. This budget request address is a cost effective investment that can save lives, structures and reduce the cost of disaster response.
California no longer has a traditional fire season that spikes in the highest heat of the summer and early fall. As last year’s October and December destructive and costly wildfires illustrate, extreme fire conditions has become a year-round concern. This is ongoing danger has led the newly-formed Disaster Readiness for Safer Communities
(DRiSC) to mobilize and urge the Governor to include an additional $100 million for the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to assist local agencies prepare for and respond to fire emergencies. The League is a member of this coalition.
Advances in forecasting have increased the accuracy in predicting when extreme weather conditions are most likely to elevate fire risk to dangerous levels. Fire agencies must now be ready at all times to respond to large scale fire storms locally and throughout the state.
Through California’s Mutual Aid System, agencies send first responders to major disasters in other areas when the threat is too large for local resources to handle on their own. Managed by OES, the Mutual Aid System is an effective critical reactive tool that is held up as a national model in firefighting and responding to other large scale disasters, however it must be modernized to address the reality of extreme weather and expanded fire risk.
The costs of responding to extreme disasters are staggering. A single mega fire exceed over $100 in response costs. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE) estimates that it spent $700 million fighting fires, which was twice the amount of its allocated budget.
The new normal of year-round fire danger means brings challenges to the Mutual Aid System, which must become proactive too, instead of primarily reactive.
In 2017, over 35,600 requests were made, of which 11,000, or 35 percent, were unfilled. Firefighting leaders need additional support to implement what is known as “pre-positioning,” which enables firefighting resources (equipment and first responders) to be on standby where and when weather conditions pose the greatest fire risk. Pre-positioning firefighting resources allows responders to attack and control fires quickly and aggressively, helping them save lives and homes.
Budget Request Will Enable Local Firefighting Agencies to Respond Faster and More Effectively
There is currently no mechanism to reimburse local agencies for the cost of pre-positioning, which is why DRiSC is requesting $100 million to enable OES to accomplish two main goals:
- Reimburse local governments for the cost of pre-positioning firefighters and equipment in advance of identifiable risks under the California Mutual Aid System; and
- Upgrade emergency communications and resource dispatching capabilities.
The DRisC website
includes several tools to urge the Governor to include $100 for disaster preparedness.
The Take Action
feature provides an online letter submission portal to ask the Governor, Senators and Assembly members to support this budget request.
It also has a form to submit a short letter
to your local newspaper to call for this budget request to improve disaster response.