CALIFORNIA, USA — At the steps of the state capitol Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire along with legislators and firefighters called for support of a bill that would help with Cal Fire staffing shortages.
SB 1062 would immediately hire 1,124 firefighters. Of those, 768 would be allocated for hand crews.
“With the hand crews, we can do the really hard, laborious work to make sure that fires are less destructive” said Senator Mike McGuire.
Hand crews help alleviate the brush and fuels for fires, and they help build containment lines ahead of fires. Cal Fire said these extra hands are essential for stopping fire progression and even preventing fire starts.
356 firefighters would go to fire engine support. Cal Fire said they average 2.7 people per fire truck, meanwhile the U.S. Forest Service and other fire services average three personnel per truck. The goal is to make sure there is always three people per fire truck without firefighters needing to work overtime.
Vice President of Cal Fire, Pete Munoa said California’s population in 1976 was 20 million people, but that number is now around 40 million.
“Cal Fire has the same amount (of), if not less, fire engines and less personnel than we did in the 1970s,” Munoa said.
Senator Dave Min of Orange County said hiring these additional firefighters is about more than just battling fires.
“It's also an important investment in the health and safety of our first responders who work as many as 40 days in a row away from their families. We heard about this statistic, 54,000 calls made last year by firefighters to mental health hotlines” Min said.
The bill has bipartisan support by 39 members. An amendment in the California Legislature would allocate 1% of state revenues from the General Fund to help pay for the new staffing measures.