Most of the country watched as large areas of California burned during multiple wildfires in the past few years. Last October Governor Gavin Newsom signed 22 bills to improve California’s wildfire laws.
Here in Sonoma County, we experienced the loss and devastation first-hand as our neighbors’ homes and businesses suffered. Here’s a quick summary of a few new California wildfire laws which we hope will improve the lives and futures of all California residents.
Assembly Bill 1054 – Created new entities to address wildfire concerns
This comprehensive bill accomplished many things including:
- creating a new California Wildfire Safety Advisory Board to give advisory opinions to publicly owned electric utilities about their wildfire plans and suggest ways to reduce wildfire risks
- establishing the Wildfire Fund to pay eligible claims arising from a covered wildfire
- specifying funding sources for the Wildfire Fund, which include contributions from electrical corporations
- defining a fair allocation of catastrophic wildfire damages and holding PG&E accountable for prioritizing safety, and
- requiring the California Public Utilities Commission to take several actions related to wildfires.
Senate Bill 167: Public safety power shutoffs
Requires utilities like PG&E to devise plans to reduce the negative impact of planned power shutoffs to first responders and people with disabilities.
Assembly Bill 247: Tree trimming
The California Public Utilities Commission assumes more control over utility tree trimming actions. All power companies must create and submit reports detailing their brush and tree trimming efforts.
Senate Bill 209: Wildfire warning center
Creates a wildfire warning center to improve overall preparation for wildfires including a network of automated weather stations throughout California with fire detection cameras.
Assembly Bill 188: Valuing property damage
Currently, homeowners are paid the “actual cash value” of their home if they experience a total loss from fire events. Now the cost to repair, rebuild, or replace the property and the physical depreciation at the time of the event are the determining factors.
Assembly Bill 38: Home retrofitting to reduce fire susceptibility
The Office of Emergency Services [Cal OES] and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection must create a plan for homeowners to retrofit their homes in a cost-effective way that makes them more flame retardant and less susceptible to wildfire hazards. Homeowners must retrofit their homes if they want to sell in 2021.
Assembly Bill 1432: Declaring an emergency water shortage without a public hearing
Before this bill, water suppliers could only declare an emergency shortage during a wildfire after holding a public hearing where consumers have the opportunity to be heard and protest against the declaration.
Recent fires have shown that time is of the essence in an emergency. Once a wildfire has erupted, holding an emergency public meeting is not realistic.
Many of our clients at Evans Kingsbury LLP have suffered losses as a result of the California wildfires. In response to their needs, Attorney Evans has joined a select team of attorneys involved in the PG&E wildfire litigation, representing thousands of victims in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties who were harmed by the wildfires.
If you have questions about the new laws and how they affect you, reach out to us at (707) 596-6090 or complete our contact form and we’ll be in touch soon.