By Julie Cart
WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO
The state is more frequently handing off some responsibility for off-season prescribed burns to local fire-safe community groups and tribes. SB 332 by Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa would provide legal and liability cover to those entities should the fires they set get away from them.
WHO SUPPORTS IT
The bill is supported by a broad base of groups, including farming and ranching advocates, local fire-safe organizations and firefighting professionals. Supporters say the bill would remove a financial disincentive and create more fuel breaks to save lives and structures.
Insurer and attorney groups originally opposed the bill, saying in a letter that lowering the legal accountability for those who set prescribed burns would be “catastrophic for California’s property and people.” They withdrew their objection after the bill was tweaked to limit its reach.
WHY IT MATTERS
Wildfire experts agree that a powerful prescriptive against fires is to safely set them under precise conditions to reduce the fuels — trees and brush — available to burn, especially around communities. The state has agreed to an ambitious prescribed-burn program and is training local officials and volunteers to carry out the fires. But fear of liability should the fire accidentally escape has prevented broader adoption of the program.
GOVERNOR’S CALL: ✅ Newsom signed it on Oct. 6.