Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Dec. 10, 2021 @ 11:42 a.m. / Emergencies, Fire
McGuire Proposes Legislation That Would Hire 1,124 New Calfire Firefighters
More than a year after the Slater Fire prompted evacuations in Gasquet, State Sen. Mike McGuire and other legislators are working on a bill that would add 1,124 firefighters to CalFire’s ranks immediately.
Joined by Republican state senators Brian Dahle and Shannon Grove during a press conference at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Friday, McGuire, who represents the North Coast, said the new legislation proposes hiring 356 full time firefighters to ensure CalFire engines are fully staffed. The legislation also proposes a mandate of 16 additional hand crews of 48 firefighters each to create defensible space and protect communities, he said.
“We also know more will need to be done, which is why we’re going to propose a modern-day staffing plan for CalFire,” McGuire said. “The legislation will mandate a staffing study that will ensure the agency and staffing infrastructure needs in this new reality are met. The completion of this study would be delivered to the Legislature and to the governor no later than 12 months after the bill was signed.”
McGuire said he plans to introduce this legislation early next year. If it is fully implemented, he said, it will cost approximately $214 million annually.
“Compare that $214 million to insured losses — between fire seasons in 2017, 2018 and 2020, it was $30 billion,” he said. “That does not include the additional two seasons since, which are billions of dollars more.”
McGuire, who was also joined by dozens of CalFire firefighters on Friday, said his proposed legislation comes as the agency faces a staffing shortage. CalFire firefighters work up to 40 days in a row without a day off, he said. Over the last four years, firefighters made more than 54,000 calls to state mental health hotlines, McGuire said.
During the press conference, Tim Edwards, president of Local 2881, the union that represents all CalFire firefighters, said he hoped the new legislation will “empower the governor to step up and do more.”
“We believe (this legislation) is not only going to help with the effectiveness of the initial attack, but most importantly of all, it’s going to do for the health and safety for the men and women of CalFire,” Edwards said. “And to me, as their president, that is the ultimate concern.”
Dahle, whose district was affected by the Dixie Fire this year, said the legislation would save taxpayers money since it would help CalFire get the resources it needs.
“In the ‘50s, we had five people on an engine and now we’re down, as the Senator noted, to 2.7,” Dahle said. “This isn’t something that is new. We need to get back to where we were in the 50s and take care of the resource and the people that are putting their lives and families in line of keeping us safe in California.”