California adopts 22 new laws taking aim at wildfire danger

The Camp Fire burns in the hills on November 10, 2018 near Oroville, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is adopting nearly two dozen laws aimed at preventing and fighting the devastating wildfires that have charred large swaths of the state in recent years and killed scores of people.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he had signed the 22 bills, saying several also will help the state meet its clean energy goals.

The measures largely enact key recommendations from a June report by a governor’s task force and build on $1 billion in the state budget devoted to preparing for wildfires and other emergencies, Newsom said.

Newsom signed the legislation as the state approaches the anniversary of the wildfire that killed 85 people and largely leveled the Northern California town of Paradise last November.

Several bills encourage communities to adopt standards for making homes and their surroundings more fire resistant. Others address the precautionary power shutoffs that utilities have begun using more frequently to ease the risk of blazes sparked by electric lines, which have ignited some of California’s deadliest wildfires in recent years.

Some increase state regulation of utilities’ wildfire prevention efforts.

“Given the realities of climate change and extreme weather events, the work is not done, but these bills represent important steps forward on prevention, community resilience and utility oversight,” Newsom said in a statement.

Earlier this year, he signed a law requiring California’s three investor-owned utilities to spend a combined $5 billion on safety improvements and standards. That measure also sets up a $21 billion fund that the companies and utility customers pay into that can be tapped to help pay victims of future wildfires.