Last night I had the pleasure of speaking at the Democratic Club of North Santa Cruz County endorsement forum in Scotts Valley. I always enjoy the opportunity to connect with members of the community and speak about my campaign. Thank you to those who came out to participate and introduce yourself. I always enjoy meeting folks from the district!
Last night, I spoke very briefly about climate change and environmentalism in response to a question. One aspect of my platform as it relates to climate change preparedness is fire risk mitigation and abatement. As a Board Member of the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County I am already working on proactive measures to lower our wildfire risk and protect peoples homes. But it is also to protect our precious environment.
Fire risk mitigation is environmentalism.
Antiquated ideas about how we are to engage with the forest that we live in is downright dangerous in this day and age. People are not separate from nature, we are a part of it. And we have a duty to take care of her. For a century we have lived with a fire suppression mentality, allowing fuel load density to increase all while climate change makes that fuel load incredible dry. Couple that with droughts, increased summer temperatures and dry lightening and its a perfect storm, as we are all painfully aware of.
I’ve seen ideas struck down at the state level to put in egresses for safer access for fire fighters. Fuel load burning stations struck down because the opponents were concerned about the pollution from the trucks that would driving the fuel load to the stations located in the WUI. These ideas based in the theory these actions would be harmful to our environment.
Let me tell you a story.
As everyone knows by now, my family lost our home in the CZU Fire. About a week after the fire my wife and I were able to come into SLV because we had press passes with one of our local papers. We got on highway nine and immediately were choking in the car from the smoke. We had to put on N95 masks immediately. As we got closer to the affected neighborhoods it got worse and worse. In our own lost neighborhood Antonia and I walked to all our neighbors properties to take photos for them so that the insurance companies could start their process with the loss being verified.
Debris was still smoldering, toxic smoke from plastics and metals filled the air making our eyes want to squint shut. The smell is so specific. The water in our creek was a dark sludge, barely moving because it was so dense. All our homes, filled with plastics, metals, and chemicals were now in our soil, our air and our waterway. The silence in our beloved forest, now beige and brown, was deafening. All the animals were gone. It felt like I was in a dream, or rather a nightmare.
The CZU Fire released 5.4 million metric tons of CO2 and omitted 16 YEARS of emission cuts in the state of California. These emissions from these wildfires feed climate change, making it worse. Making the new round of fires harder to contend with. It is a horrible cycle and we must be proactive in working to break it.
We have a duty to the environment to do whatever we can to prevent another CZU. Again, fire risk mitigation is environmentalism. It doesn’t just protect our homes and our communities, its protects our planet. It also helps support our hardworking firefighters, who in the special districts have very limited resources to work with.
As you next fifth district supervisor I will focus greatly on fire risk mitigation for our district and county. We are not helpless and have so much more agency than we think. Additionally, I will:
Allocate funding in the county budget for vegetation management projects and fire prevention education.
Hire additional defensible space inspectors to increase removal of flammable vegetation around structures.
Streamline permitting and CEQA compliance to accelerate thinning, prescribed burns, and other vegetation treatments.
Support local non profits that focus on fire risk mitigation
Work closely with the OR3 and support its Wildfire Resilience Program
Improve GIS mapping of risks and assets to identify priority areas for fuels reduction.
Collaborate with CalFire, USFS, and local fire agencies on joint mitigation strategies.
Launch public education campaigns on creating defensible space and preventing ignitions.
Lobby state lawmakers for policy changes that enable more mitigation.
Seek federal and state grant funds for fire risk mitigation
Report progress and needs regularly to show seriousness and support.
Hold regular town halls in fire vulnerable areas to get information and perspectives of concerned citizens
Lastly, I carry a personal commitment to help prevent other families from suffering such catastrophic losses as much as possible. My intimate understanding of these stakes drives my campaign's vision for overcoming challenges through understanding, compassion and grit. Together, we can build a resilient future for Santa Cruz County.