September 24 2021 03:30 pm

California Republican lawmakers hold wildfire forum after oversight hearing postponed

Inside California Politics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — As multiple major wildfires burn across the state, California Republican lawmakers held a wildfire forum Tuesday in front of the State Capitol.

The group organized the event after Democrats postponed an oversight hearing with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and fire officials after an NPR investigation found they overstated completed forest management work by 690%.

“We need to get on these fires faster before they become the kind of conflagrations we’ve become all too familiar with,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City.

The governor would not comment on the postponement of the oversight hearing and no one from Newsom’s administration attended the forum.

Democrats were invited but did not attend Tuesday’s forum.

The Democratic chairman who leads the committee that will eventually hold the hearing said lawmakers want the full attention of fire officials and the Newsom administration, and that for now, it’s best those agencies focus on fighting fires.

Republicans spent the afternoon hearing suggestions on ways to tackle the state’s fire situation from community firefighting leaders, many emphasizing the need for far more forest management.

“All the trees are, essentially, straws on the ground just trying to compete for valuable water resources but, quite frankly, losing the battle,” said John Andersen, the director of forest policy at the Humboldt and Mendocino Redwood companies.

On more efficient firefighting and wildfire prevention, the leader of a private firefighting and forest management company, Jess Wills, questioned the state’s refusal to contract with private workers like him. Wills’ company contracts with the federal government.

“I’ve watched 40 homes burn down in the town of Paradise a few years ago and I had four hand crews sitting that never got dispatched,” Wills, the president of Firestorm Wildland Fire Suppression Inc., said.

The bipartisan oversight hearing is set to be rescheduled sometime later in the fall or winter.

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