LOS GATOS, CA — On Saturday at the Los Gatos Fiesta de Artes, Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) joined Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and officials for the Santa Clara County Fire Department, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Campbell, Cupertino, and Saratoga to announce a multimillion-dollar budget investment in wildfire prevention and emergency preparedness for communities in the West Valley.
In May, Assemblymember Low and his regional partners made a $7 million request to the Assembly Budget Committee for a one-time budget allocation to enhance public safety and emergency resiliency in the event of wildfires, earthquakes, and other disasters. The funding was secured in California’s recently passed budget thanks to this coordinated request, which was submitted just months after the devastating SCU and CZU Lightning Complex fires of 2020 burned close to 400,000 acres and 86,000 acres, respectively.
“While each of our communities has their own unique character and challenges, our lives are deeply interconnected, especially in times of crisis, which is why I’m so thankful for the regional coalition that came together to make this budget investment possible,” Assemblymember Low said. “Almost 2 million acres have already burned across California just this year, and fire season is far from over. As we continue to combat wildfires and other disasters, we need to prioritize a regional approach and make sure we look after our neighbors, whether they live on the same street or one town over.”
The state budget investment in West Valley fire prevention and emergency services will total $7 million to increase wildfire preparedness, including support for the business community and modernizing Emergency Operation and Police Department Operation Centers (EOC/DOC).
"The threat of wildfire in our communities continues to grow,” Santa Clara County Fire Department acting Chief Brian Glass said. “Wildfire is not concerned with political boundaries, and the Santa Clara County Fire Department recognizes that it is imperative for all of us to work together, to marshal our resources, and to collaborate in our planning and preparation. Funding like this comes at an important time for the West Valley and will be utilized to protect lives and property from wildfire. We are sincerely thankful to Asm. Low, Rep. Eshoo, and the West Valley communities for their tireless work and steadfast dedication securing this funding."
The grant will create a pilot Wildland Fire Specialist Program, which will help create defensible spaces for West Valley communities to be implemented and overseen by the Santa Clara County Fire Department (SCCFD).
“It’s very rare at an event where we ask our community members to spend money and then we get news that Los Gatos and the West Valley cities are getting close to $7 million in return for our elected officials,” Los Gatos Mayor Marico Sayoc said on Saturday, adding that local officials in neighboring cities were incredible allies throughout the state budget request process.
The budget investment will also provide economic incentives to modernize structures in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas in Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga.
“With roughly half of Saratoga designated at risk for wildfire, managing wildfire risk is one of our greatest concerns,” Saratoga Mayor Yan Zhao said. “While we’ve made great strides, there is always more work to be done. I’m so thankful to Assemblymember Low for his partnership and efforts to secure the $7 million needed to enable the West Valley cities to work together as a region to mitigate our risk and improve our resiliency in the event of an emergency. I’m also grateful to Congressmember Anna Eshoo for the continued efforts she has made to provide much-needed resources for our region!”
The budget allocation will also fund a one-time Business Continuity and Resilience program to provide improvements and technical assistance to businesses in their emergency planning.
In 1994, the City of Montecito established a similar program that is widely credited with sparing the city from the ravages of the 2017 Thomas Fire, which was the seventh-largest wildfire in California history as of May 2021.