HomeHome InsuranceMike McGuire hosts town hall ahead of impending wildfire season – Times-Standard

Mike McGuire hosts town hall ahead of impending wildfire season – Times-Standard

Tuesday night, state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) hosted a digital town hall ahead of California’s increasingly severe wildfire season.

“So many counties throughout Northern California have been held back during these challenging wildfires. Candidly, the alarm couldn’t be louder,” he said at the town hall.

He said the new reality of mega-wildfires is here to stay.

Cal Fire’s Northern Region Asst. Chief Jake Hess said that during the past few years, the agency found there is no room for error during wildfires.

“We are starting to evacuate people more often, and earlier,” he said.

For conditions this year, Hess said the grass crops in Northern California increased and models show fires will have more energy. He said despite atmospheric rivers, drought conditions continue in parts of California, and the widespread storm damage in higher elevations will impact fires.

Cal Fire's Northern Region Asst. Chief Jake Hess said that "everybody holds a piece to this puzzle," to adapt to wildfires.(Screenshot)
Cal Fire’s Northern Region Asst. Chief Jake Hess said that “everybody holds a piece to this puzzle,” to adapt to wildfires.(Screenshot)

Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber said the fire season is getting longer, hotter and drier.

“We know our climate is changing. The swings are greater than they’ve ever been,” he said.

He said fire season on average is 70 days longer than in the 1970s.

Changes to firefighting were also discussed.

McGuire mentioned $500 million coming from the federal government to address wildfires. The funds are from President Joe Biden’s action for the U.S. Forest Service land, which makes up much of California.

McGuire said the state is working to address the firefighter shortage. He noted money coming to Cal Fire will hire 1,000 firefighters over the next few years. He mentioned an expanded number of firefighting planes and helicopters.

A question and answer session included questions about how homeowners can prepare for fire season.

Hess said new burn permit rules are in place for this year, and encouraged people to look online at their county’s Cal Fire website to see the changes.

One person, who only identified as Lisa, suggested everyone use goats or sheep for defensible space.

“I’ve had goats all my life. They are some of the best lawnmowers in the business — I’ll take a goat any day over a damn sheep,” said McGuire.

Weber said there is enormous competition for goats, and said if you own property of any size, having goats can help keep down annual grasses.

McGuire noted about three dozen people asked questions about home insurance. Home insurance rates have skyrocketed and providers have dwindled, especially in rural areas that are at risk of wildfires.

“We’re going to need wholesale reform of the insurance system,” said McGuire, noting that he thinks a ballot initiative needs to be put forward for California to vote on, similar to how the auto insurance industry was regulated.

The town hall is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMopV3Afb1g

Then on Wednesday morning, McGuire’s office announced a state Senate bill that would mandate mortgage companies honor existing rebuild contracts with survivors of wildfires — even when mortgages are transferred or sold to another mortgage vendor.

SB 455 has passed the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions and the Judiciary committees.

“Disaster survivors already face tremendous challenges to recover and rebuild after a wildfire or earthquake, and SB 455 will give homeowners certainty and peace of mind when they rebuild their home and lives,” said McGuire in a prepared statement.

According to the release, hundreds of families found the terms of their rebuild changed when their mortgage was sold to a new mortgage company.

Sage Alexander can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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