The devastating wildfires we face in California demand more action at the federal level. Buildings, communities and lives have been destroyed and we need to approach the issue as a crisis. After 35 years fighting fires and serving as chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, I can promise you that the time for talk has long passed. Given the scope, scale and human and financial costs of the problem we face, I’ve often wondered why presidential candidates haven’t talked about how to address the problem.
One campaign, however, called me and asked specifically about the issues we face in California. And one candidate launched an ambitious but doable plan on climate change that includes specific provisions for addressing our wildfires.
Like most Californian’s, until recently, I didn’t know much about Mike Bloomberg. But after digging into his record and plan, I believe we need to pay close attention.
Bloomberg has a track record of getting things done on climate as the mayor of New York. He made significant investments in clean energy, successfully implemented a clean buildings plan and despite a rapidly growing population, dramatically reduced pollutants resulting in the highest air quality in 50 years.
But what grabbed my attention and should grab everyone’s attention was that Bloomberg is the only candidate to release a specific wildfire plan.
It offers sensible provisions, including the creation of a National Wildfire Corps that would train and employ skilled workers to support efforts to make communities more fire-resilient, restore healthy forest ecosystems, and provide enhanced wildfire protection and capacity to local communities.
Executed well, Bloomberg’s fire and forestry proposal will reduce loss of life and property over the next four years, saving the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year.
Well-managed forests would also offset an additional 8-10% of U.S. emissions, and the work required could bring thousands of jobs to rural and mountain communities. The idea of creating better fire protection through the creation of more jobs is creative, non-partisan, and sensible.
I no longer fight on the front lines of blazes in our forests, but I will continue to fight for the solutions that can make a difference in California.
For anyone who also cares deeply about this fight, it’s quite clear that Mike Bloomberg has put forward a thoughtful plan that is necessary, smart and can actually get done.
Ken Pimlott is former chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He wrote this commentary for CalMatters.