- Rainer Apostol
SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s (D-Winters) bill AB 1717, which will ensure that workers get paid fairly and trained well for dangerous work to mitigate fires, has passed the legislature.
Catastrophic wildfires have unfortunately become an annual occurrence in California. In 2021 alone the state saw 8,786 active wildfires that burned approximately 2,568,941 acres of land,destroyed 3,629 structures, and, most devastating of all, took the lives of three California citizens.
Given this reality, the state has placed a strong emphasis on wildfire mitigation work as a means to reduce the intensity of wildfire season. In the 2021-2022 budget, the Governor and Legislature appropriated $1.5 billion towards wildfire prevention in an effort to protect California communities from wildfires, and additionally ensured multi-year funding towards wildfire mitigation by requiring that $200 million from the greenhouse gas reduction fund be spent annually on wildfire mitigation until 2028.
“We know that wildfires in California are only getting worse. Last year, all six counties in my district were on fire at once,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). “It’s simply unacceptable that we have such a clear need for these types of projects and don’t pay or train our workers well. On top of that, we have a worker shortage, and one that is not going to be solved by underpaying hardworking Californians for doing this dangerous and essential work.”
In an effort to protect communities and existing public works from the devastating impacts of wildfires, AB 1717 would expand the definition of public works to include fuel reduction work performed as part of a wildfire mitigation project, including, but not limited to, residential chipping, rural road fuel breaks, fire breaks, and vegetation management. By designating wildfire mitigation projects as a public works, the State will continue to show its commitment to the protection of our communities, fair wages for workers, as well as the development of California-based apprentices.
“I understand the near term need to deliver projects immediately,” continued Aguiar-Curry. “We have listened to opponents and our talented fire mitigation professionals in the Administration. We’ve, therefore, delayed the implementation of the bill to allow budgets and contracting practices to catch up. But, we need to build a workforce who can afford to live in the communities they protect. The workforce crisis will also threaten project delivery. The time to begin to address the next crisis is before it becomes a crisis.”
The bill’s sponsor also commented on its passage from the legislature. “The California-Nevada Conference of Operating Engineers applauds the work of Assembly Member Aguiar-Curry and the Legislature in passing AB 1717 (Aguiar-Curry). This bill will ensure that the state has a robust, highly trained workforce performing fuels reduction work for years to come, which will protect entire communities as well a variety of existing public works from catastrophic wildfires.”
This bill passed the Assembly on a 54-6 vote. It now goes to the Governor’s desk.
Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento.