Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Legislation that would help prevent catastrophic wildfires by limiting open fires in state park campgrounds during the fire season was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water.

Senate Bill 1012, by state Sens. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa) and Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff), would require state parks to enforce rules on open fires that are at least as restrictive as the rules adopted by the fire department or fire district within whose boundaries the park is located.

At times in recent years, state parks have allowed visitors to build open fires at their campsites while residents living within sight of the parks were prohibited from having fires or even backyard barbeques. These inconsistent rules can lead to confusion that makes it more difficult for local fire agencies to enforce their restrictions in residential areas.

It is also dangerous to allow open fires during fire season. Fires in campgrounds can jump their fire pits, and embers can fly for miles before landing on dry brush or timber, sparking a potentially massive fire.

“This common-sense legislation provides clarity to campers and residents alike by requiring the state to respect the local and regional firefighters who are on the front lines preventing wildfires,” Glazer said. “These fires can kill people and animals, destroy property, and consume thousands of acres of wildlands, and we should do all we can to prevent them.”

Sen. Nielsen said the bill is a straightforward fire-prevention measure that respects local control.

“There have been too many devastating fires in California and it is vital that we have consistent fire laws among all levels of government,” said Nielsen. “This bill is a simple step to help prevent wildfires that could result in the loss of lives, property and wildlife.”

Although the state park superintendent for the Sierra district recently pledged to work more closely with local fire agencies, Glazer said the state should be required to follow the local districts’ lead. He also said that while the current administration may be willing to adopt such a policy, SB 1012 is needed so that future state officials continue to abide by it.