The call to action comes on the heels of the Tubbs Fire last fall in Sonoma Cou
nty, California’s most devastating wildfire in history that took 43 lives and burned thousands of homes in Santa Rosa. During major disaster events, local fire agencies supply much of the response resources through California’s Mutual Aid System. However, local fire agencies were unable to respond to 11,000 requests for assistance (30 percent of all calls) in 2017.The League is making several budget asks this year, including $100 million in the state budget for local agencies’ Mutual Aid costs, emergency communications and dispatch.
“Through California’s Mutual Aid System — where neighbor helps neighbor in times of disaster — fire fighters and strike teams from across the state helped our city fight the Tubbs Fire. I want to acknowledge and express my gratitude to all of those first responders who came to our assistance to fight the fire and save lives,” said Mayor Coursey. “As our community continues to rebuild, we know that Santa Rosa and all California communities face more natural disasters. They will come faster and with more force than in the past. We can learn from the Tubbs fire and make investments now that will give our first responders the tools to allow them to meet the challenges ahead.”
Winters City Council Member Jesse Loren and League Executive Director Carolyn Coleman stood with Mayor Coursey, Chief Gossner and the others at the podium.
Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), who represents the area the Tubbs Fire consumed, is a champion of this budget request and he kicked off the May 9 event by stressing the fact that although California’s Mutual Aid System works well, it does not have enough funding to meet the needs of the state’s conditions.
“Last year’s massive wildland fires were the deadliest and most destructive in modern American history and our state is facing a new normal when it comes to the size and scope of wildland fires. It has become clear that even the finest firefighting force in the nation — and the gold standard of mutual systems here in California — has become overwhelmed,” said Sen. McGuire.
Joining Sen. McGuire on the Capitol steps to speak were a number of other legislators who are championing the need for increased funding for disaster response including Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Assembly Member Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) and Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-Marin County).
This press conference is an important part of the League and its coalition partners’ effort to urge lawmakers to appropriate $100 million for local fire services in the FY 2018–19 state budget.
In addition, CalFire is also requesting $84 million to purchase 31 fire engines that were cut from the state budget in the 1970s and to hire skilled and trained personnel to staff the emergency response rigs.
More photos from the event are available on the League's Facebook page