SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As dozens of new California laws are set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, some address more recently relevant topics like voting accessibility, menstrual products in school, housing and environmental protection.
Here is what you need to know about new wildfire laws that are officially on the books in 2022.
Prescribed burns - Senate Bill 332
Introduced by State Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, the bill regarding prescribed burns was signed by Gov. Newsom on Oct. 6 — stating no one should be held financially liable for the costs of putting out a prescribed fire caused by them if certain circumstances apply.
A prescribed fire describes any fire planned and controlled to burn away existing wildfire hazards, and block off paths for future wildfires. If required in local jurisdictions, a certified burn boss must review and approve plans for prescribed fires.
Any person lighting such fires for those purposes, ecological maintenance and restoration, cultural burning, silviculture or agriculture would not be liable for fire damage costs stemming from the prescribed burns.
But, the bill also states people found guilty of gross negligence should not be entitled to immunity from such costs.
Prior to the law's passage, anyone found negligent in setting fires, allowing them to flourish or letting it burn onto other property could be found liable for the costs of suppressing the fire, medical services, investigations and more.
Now people can set more controlled fires without the fear of financial liability for non-grossly negligent behavior.
What do critics say?
Though this was another bill passed unanimously in the California Legislature, opponents of the bill argued reducing liability for fire disasters complicates the recovery process for wildfire victims.
A joint statement from the Consumer Attorneys of California, the Personal Insurance Federation of California, and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies stated it makes no sense “to lessen the legal accountability standard of professionals doing one of the most dangerous things one can do in California — start a wildfire.”
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