KHTS: Garcia Discusses California Wildfire Management With KHTS
Washington, August 5, 2021
Tags: Wildfire Mitigation
Congressman Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, sat down with KHTS News Director Jade Aubuchon on Wednesday to discuss the latest issues affecting the Santa Clarita Valley, including wildfire management at the state and federal levels.
Garcia offered an update on recent actions he’s taken on behalf of California’s 25th Congressional District, including the Santa Clarita Valley, touching on topics relating to wildfire management, base pay raises for members of the military, and infrastructure improvements in CA25.
Garcia introduced the Protecting and Restoring Our Trees by Enhancing Conservation and Treatments (PROTECT) Act in July to help prevent wildfires in areas across the state, including Santa Clarita.
“The reality is that these wildfires are products of the fire triangle, that’s fuel, oxygen and ignition,” Garcia said. “We’re not going to remove the fuel — the oxygen — from our atmosphere obviously, but we can remove the fuel from our forests, and we can work to mitigate some of these ignitions are happening that cause these wildfires.”
The PROTECT Act removes current regulations to allow for active forest management, mainly through brush clearing and prescribed burns, to reduce the risk of large wildfires, according to Garcia’s office.
2020 produced four out of the top five worst wildfires in recorded California history, with a total 4.2 million acres burned last year, equivalent to the entire area of Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties combined, according to an 122-page report released by George Morris III, an assistant regional chief for Cal Fire.
“We need to invest in large aerial tankers to help fight the fires once they’ve ignited, we need to help prevent the ignition of fires… and then we need to make sure that we’re removing as much of the dead forest, whether its shrubs or trees that effectively act as the primary fuel once these ignitions happen,” Garcia said. “If we do those three things, we can mitigate this.”
Part of the issue with major wildfires in recent years have been an influx of blazes in areas that have not been kept in check with prescription burns, allowing decades of dead brush to build up in some places and increase the dangers posed by flames when the area inevitably burns.
This was evident in the case of the Lake Fire just north of Santa Clarita, wherein over 31,000 acres burned between Aug.12 and Sept. 29, 2020. The difficulty experienced by firefighters in subduing the flames was partially attributed to the fact that the blaze had moved into areas that had not burned in at least 100 years, the exact issue that prescribed burns and forest management are meant to alleviate.
Garcia also touched on the detrimental impact of supply chain shortages on wildfire management, especially in terms of jet fuel for aerial tankers. He and his fellow congressmembers sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack outlining their concerns over the effect of the shortage, especially in light of the approaching wildfire season.
“What we’re seeing right now is, as a result of COVID a lot of the aviation fuel supply chains — primarily the truckers — are either not working or have not been asked to come back to work, and are effectively not servicing the airfields that a lot of these aerial tankers will be based out of,” Garcia said.
While not as much of a problem in California, the impact of this shortage has been keenly felt in other states across the nation such as Utah, Colorado, and Nevada, according to Garcia.
“I’m hopeful that at least we’ve put a bright light on the problem,” Garcia said. “And ideally that these trucking companies get back to work and we are actually able to get the fuel to the airfields that need it.”
During the course of the interview, Garcia also touched on other actions that his office has been focused on over the past several weeks, including advocating for a base pay raise for members of the military, infrastructure improvements in appropriations bills, and assistance for local businesses.