By The Governor of The State of California
Gov. Schwarzenegger Acts on California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission Report, Issues Proclamation
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today joined U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons to receive the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission final report and to thank the commission for their collaborative efforts. The Governors also issued state-specific proclamations outlining the next steps each state will take to implement many of the report’s recommendations. As part of California’s Proclamation, Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a State of Emergency in Placer and El Dorado counties today, so the state can immediately take action to make the Tahoe Basin safer and better prepared for future wildfires.
“Last year’s Angora Fire gave us a painful reminder of the challenges we face in this vulnerable region,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “That’s why Governor Gibbons and I formed the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission and made sure every local voice would be heard.
“I am taking action today based on the recommendations made by the Fire Commission. We will work hand-in-hand with local, regional and federal agencies to make the Tahoe Basin safer and greatly increase our fire prevention efforts while protecting the natural splendor of Lake Tahoe. I am excited about what the future holds for the Tahoe Basin in this new era of collaboration,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said.
“The Angora Fire showed how devastating wildfires can be here in the Tahoe Basin,” Senator Feinstein said. “It consumed more than 3,000 acres and destroyed 242 homes. And it can happen again. The risk is high again this year, so it’s critical that all levels of government-federal, state and local-work together to address the risk. So I want to congratulate Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Gibbons for reaching this important agreement today.
“It’s also critical that homeowners do their part. We must redouble our efforts to remove hazardous fuels and to create defensible space. It’s only by working together that we can take the meaningful steps toward protecting lives, property, the Tahoe Basin and this beautiful Lake,” Sen. Feinstein said.
In addition to proclaiming a State of Emergency, Governor Schwarzenegger’s Proclamation does the following:
Directs the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to conduct vigorous defensible space inspections, provide public education about defensible space and impose fines or liens if appropriate.
Directs CAL FIRE to staff additional fire engines and other firefighting resources in the area as conditions dictate.
Directs state agencies involved with fire fuels management activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin to develop plans for biomass utilization.
Urges the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the California Air Resources Board and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to adopt the Commission’s recommendations.
Following the Angora Fire in June 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger and Nevada Governor Gibbons signed a memo of understanding (MOU) establishing the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission. The MOU created an advisory panel of 17 voting members representing each state’s stake in the management of lands and fire fuels within the Tahoe Basin, including representatives from state agencies, fire officials, public members from the Lake Tahoe community and a representative of the U.S. Forest Service, which manages approximately 90 percent of land in the Tahoe Basin and the area where the Angora Fire started.
The Fire Commission performed a comprehensive review of the laws, policies and practices that affect the vulnerability of the Tahoe Basin to wildfires. They also studied user-friendly approaches to reducing the threat of wildfires while protecting the environment. The Governors directed the Fire Commission to submit a report of findings and recommendations to them by March 21, 2008. To view the full report, go to http://resources.ca.gov/TahoeFireCommission/
During the 2007 Angora Fire, the Governor took strong action to help fire victims. He issued a proclamation for a State of Emergency on June 25, 2007, and then two days later, he issued an executive order to assist individuals that suffered losses by waiving fees for replacing state documents lost in the fire, including vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses and birth certifications. On July 2, the Governor issued a proclamation directing state agencies to help Angora Fire victims clean up and rebuild as quickly as possible by streamlining, and in some cases suspending, certain state rules regarding the removal and disposal of both hazardous and non-hazardous debris as well as dead and dying trees.
In his 2008-09 May budget revise, the Governor fully funds CAL FIRE and is working to implement the Emergency Response Initiative. The Governor believes we must do everything we can to maximize our disaster readiness. The Emergency Response Initiative will ensure California is prepared by providing first responders with new equipment and technology, improving overall emergency preparedness and response and proactively helping to save lives and property.
Below is the full text of the California Proclamation:
BY THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
WHEREAS on June 25, 2007 a state of emergency was proclaimed to exist as a result of a wildfire in the Lake Tahoe Basin and the resulting peril to the area; and
WHEREAS the Angora fire damaged or destroyed hundreds of structures and utilities and burned thousands of acres; and
WHEREAS the Angora fire created conditions of extreme peril to the people, property and environment in Lake Tahoe, a national treasure; and
WHEREAS the Angora fire demonstrated the significant danger and destruction posed by catastrophic fires and the need for proper planning, preparation and prevention efforts to avoid such devastation; and
WHEREAS in response to the Angora fire, I joined with the Governor of Nevada to create the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission to review forest management and fire suppression policies in the Basin; and
WHEREAS the fire service agencies, community leaders, business owners and residents of the communities located within the Basin have come together to address the fire protection and prevention needs in the Basin and the need to protect the environment of this pristine natural resource; and
WHEREAS the Commission, after diligent inquiry and review, completed the Tahoe Fire Commission Report and recommended that all agencies and authorities in the Basin prioritize their efforts for the protection of life, property, and the environment, in that order, with respect to fire safety, fire prevention, and related matters within the Basin; and
WHEREAS the Commission further determined that:
1) The Basin is badly in need of dramatic and urgent wildfire mitigation actions across a wide spectrum of fire suppression, fuels management, planning and regulatory streamlining improvements;
2) A coordinated and consistent method of fuels treatment and removal, in terms of priority, implementation, monitoring and maintenance, is required across a diverse set of landownership boundaries;
3) The current regulatory environment within the Basin for fuels treatment projects is confusing, overly complex and often incompatible with the immediate need to mitigate the threat of catastrophic wildfire, and that such regulations and procedures require the immediate attention of agencies and authorities having jurisdiction over the health and condition of the forests of the Basin including, but not limited to, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
(TRPA), in order to eliminate or otherwise reduce the adverse effects of confusing, overlapping, or unnecessarily restrictive regulations and regulatory procedures; and
WHEREAS the Commission unanimously found that “the forests surrounding the Lake and located within the Tahoe Basin are not healthy and their long-term prognosis is poor” and that the “condition of the Basin’s forests represent disasters waiting to happen, with resulting great loss of the forest, a massive destruction of property, the increasingly high potential for loss of life, and severe and inestimable pollution of the Lake”; and
WHEREAS a multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency report entitled “Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-Jurisdictional Fire Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy 10-Year Plan” was recently issued, providing a detailed overview of forest health and fire activity in the Basin; and
WHEREAS the 10-Year Plan said that before 1870, low intensity fires burned through the Basin every 5 to 18 years, resulting in a forest composed mainly of widely-spaced conifer trees with minimal accumulations of underbrush, but more recent policies and activities have resulted in much denser forests (up to 4 times denser than pre-1870 density) along with abnormal increases in underbrush and other fuels; and
WHEREAS increased density of the forests in the Basin has adversely impacted forest health in many other ways, and the 10-Year Plan further states that: current forest stands exhibit a 70% higher disease incidence and a 5% greater mortality rate than remnant old growth stands; that higher rates of tree mortality have greatly increased the number of standing dead trees and downed logs; that smaller, mid-size trees create fuel ladders that allow fires to move easily into dense crowns; and that the lack of frequent low-density fires has resulted in dangerous accumulations of underbrush and dense young trees, which increases the likelihood that higher intensity fires, including dangerous crown fires, will occur in the Basin; and
WHEREAS the 10-Year Plan states that much of the Basin is classified at a high level of fire danger; and
WHEREAS the Basin is home to more than 50,000 people, and is a worldwide tourist and recreation destination, supporting a local economy exceeding $1 billion dollars and real estate values also in excess of $1 billion dollars; and
WHEREAS catastrophic wildfires do not recognize territorial boundaries, and a continuing imminent threat of harm to people, property and the environment exists throughout the Basin; and
WHEREAS the imminent threat of catastrophic wildfire within the Basin is extraordinarily high due to a massive build-up of dry, dead, and otherwise difficult to remove fuels within the forests located within the Basin and the poor condition of the forests resulting from drought, disease, and other conditions that have adversely affected the forests of the Basin over a period of time; and
WHEREAS the accumulation of fuels in the form of woody biomass has resulted in a natural disaster that presents a clear and present danger to the health, safety and property of the residents of the Basin and to the environment and clarity of Lake Tahoe; and
WHEREAS these conditions, by reason of their magnitude, are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single county, city and county, or city and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and
WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist in the counties of Placer and El Dorado.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the State Constitution and the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code, HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist within the counties of Placer and El Dorado.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that all agencies of the state government utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of my Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the State Emergency Plan, and that OES provide local government assistance under the authority of the California Disaster Assistance Act.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) shall secure and deploy additional resources that are necessary, as determined by the Director, to protect the safety of persons and property from wildfires within the counties of Placer and El Dorado during periods of elevated fire risk as follows:
(a) Staff additional fire engines as warranted based on fire threat conditions.
(b) Assign additional fire safe inspectors where and when beneficial to reduce fire risk, assist with fire hazard reduction, conduct defensible space inspections, and promote fire safe practices, public education and prevention programs.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Director of CAL FIRE shall evaluate the feasibility of establishing a higher level of fire protection services in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Resources Agency shall oversee the Climate Action Team’s development of measures for wildfire fuels reduction and biomass utilization.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all appropriate state agencies support the Lake Tahoe Basin “Multi-Jurisdictional Fuel Reduction and Fire Prevention Strategy 10-Year Plan.”
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Secretaries for the California Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency shall monitor the progress of a revised Memorandum of Understanding between TRPA and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Lahontan Region (Lahontan Water Board) with regard to reduction of fire hazards, and shall report to the Governor by January 1, 2009, on such progress.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE provide public education about defensible space and enforce clear and consistent defensible space standards consistent with Public Resources Code section 4291, and further described in the Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Chief’s “9-point Letter” and the Tahoe Commission Report.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all state agencies within my administration shall advance fire prevention education and shall utilize the existing “Living with Fire” educational program developed cooperatively by California agencies and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Specific issues addressed in this program are defensible space, home maintenance, evacuation preparation, and building materials. Education on appropriate recreational use of the forest, such as safe campfire use and fire restriction policies, shall also be encouraged.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall conduct vigorous defensible space inspections, shall impose fines and/or liens pursuant to applicable authority, and shall pursue development of a comprehensive program to track firesafe education and inspection activities.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall assist local governments and TRPA in developing a comprehensive program to track firesafe education and inspection services.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall provide educational information to homeowners on defensible space and California Building and Fire Codes ignition-resistant building materials, and shall develop training for defensible space inspection and building ignitability in consultation with the Department of Insurance, OES, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall, by July 1, 2008, assist local fire agencies and TRPA in establishing a single phone number for Tahoe Basin homeowners to call for information on defensible space guidelines.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall develop and provide defensible space inspector training to agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin. This training shall include new tree-marking standards and California Ignition-Resistant Building and Fire Codes.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that CAL FIRE shall coordinate and utilize an Annual Operating Plan with all cooperating fire agencies in the Tahoe Basin to ensure that all available firefighting resources are identified, dispatched, and deployed according to the ‘closest forces’ concept, and that all responding resources adhere to that Plan.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that pursuant to Government Code section 8571, the provisions of the Government Code and the Public Contract Code applicable to state contracts are hereby suspended to the extent that they would prevent, hinder, or impede the removal and disposal of hazardous vegetation.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all state agencies involved with fire fuels management activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin shall develop plans for biomass utilization, including plans for appropriate programs, partnerships, research, regulations streamlining, and public education.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, to the extent authorized by applicable law, the purchasing authority of CAL FIRE and OES (and other state agencies and departments as deemed necessary by the Director of OES) shall be raised to $100,000 to expedite the contracts necessary to prepare and respond to emergencies during this fire season.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Department of General Services (DGS), in coordination with OES, shall establish short and long-term procurement mechanisms to secure the unique goods and services that may be required to support communities in an emergency.
IT IS FURTHER STRONGLY ENCOURAGED that TRPA and local agencies provide public education regarding, and enforce, clear and consistent defensible space standards consistent with Public Resources Code section 4291, and further described in the Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Chief’s “9-point Letter” and the Tahoe Commission Report.
IT IS FURTHER STRONGLY ENCOURAGED that the California Air Resources Board (ARB) take expedited action to implement the recommendations of the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission related to ARB, or develop findings as to why any such recommendation or recommendations should not be implemented, and submit those findings to the California Environmental Protection Agency.
IT IS FURTHER STRONGLY ENCOURAGED that TRPA take expedited action to adopt the recommendations of the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission related to TRPA, or develop findings as to why any such recommendation or recommendations should not be implemented. It is strongly encouraged that priority be given to those recommendations that support the education, information management, and enforcement relating to defensible space.
IT IS FURTHER STRONGLY ENCOURAGED that the Lahontan Water Board take expedited action to implement the recommendations of the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission related to the Lahontan Water Board, or develop findings as to why any such recommendation or recommendations should not be implemented, and submit those findings to the Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board and the Secretary for Environmental Protection.
IT IS FURTHER STRONGLY ENCOURAGED that local governments within the Lake Tahoe Basin provide public education regarding fire fuel hazard reduction, develop local ordinances to retrofit wood roofs, and develop fire service funding to address local fire service needs.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Secretaries for the California Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency shall monitor implementation of this Executive Order and provide periodic reports to me.
This Order is not intended to, and does not, create any rights or benefits, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, against the State of California, its agencies, departments, entities, officers, employees, or any other person.
I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this Order be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given to this Order.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 27th day of May 2008.