California lawmakers looking for ways to make future wildfires less severe, protect residents

SACRAMENTO (KGO) -- In Sacramento Wednesday, work began on re-writing state laws about who is at fault and who should pay for damage from future severe wildfires.

It all started with a hearing before a Senate Committee chaired by a bay area lawmaker who also heard from fire survivors about the anguish many are going through.

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California's Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot had this frightening reminder for people at the hearing.

"In some parts of California fire season is literally year around," he said.

That's what the North Bay is afraid of, especially in the wake of the Tubbs fire that burned 36,000 acres in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties.

Patrick McCallum, who barely survived the Tubbs fire was at the hearing to remind lawmakers that people are still struggling with the fallout from fires that burned several years back.

"People are struggling, financially struggling, they talk about being homeless, about living in trailers," he said.

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Today's hearing was the first step on the road to drawing up laws to implement the findings of the Governor's Strike Force on Wildfires. The report looked at the severity of wildfires, how to fight them, who should pay for damage, and what kind of resources the state will need.

State Senator Bill Dodd of Napa is committee chairman and is trying to follow the governor's request to have some sort of legislation ready by early July.

"That's very ambitious, but we're working hard to try to exceed that goal."

The cost of fires caused by power lines has driven PG&E into bankruptcy. State Senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo says his goal is to make sure that ratepayers don't get squeezed.

"The shareholders will pay for this. It's not going to be like the bankruptcy last time where the ratepayers pay 8 to12 billion dollars more."

In the future, lawmakers will hear from experts with recommendations for fine tuning the reports finding. But they still have a long way to go and a short time to get there.
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