In Midst of Horrific Wildfire Season, BuildStrong Coalition Establishes Focused Presence in California

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August 18, 2021

(Sacramento) – The nationally recognized BuildStrong Coalition announced today its first dedicated state chapter — in California — with a focus on optimizing state access to federal resiliency funding and sensible policies that ensure California adapts to new challenges brought on by extreme climate events. BuildStrong California will work to build consensus to improve state, local, and tribal capacity to reduce wildfire and other natural disaster risks and protect homes, businesses, and communities against the next tragedy.

BuildStrong was instrumental in the development and passage of the federal Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program, which provides funding for resilience-building mitigation projects. FEMA recently announced $1B in BRIC program funding for the current year, which, combined with President Biden’s approval of $3.46B in hazard mitigation funding, means there is nearly $4.5 billion now available to help communities prepare for extreme weather and natural disasters.

“While the recent record-breaking investment in disaster mitigation will go a long way towards protecting more Americans from severe natural catastrophes, one has to look no further than rampant wildfire damage to know that even more must be done,” said BuildStrong Coalition Chairman and National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies SVP of Government Affairs Jimi Grande. “That is why we are launching this important effort that we feel will be critical to changing the dynamic for folks all across California.”

Since 2017, California has experienced year-over-year increases in wildfires, with more frequent and more catastrophic events ravaging communities across the state. Last year, 9,639 wildfires burned nearly 4.4 million acres; the August Complex burned more than 1 million acres over seven counties alone and destroyed more than 10,000 structures at a cost of more than $12 billion. Today, the Dixie fire is the single largest fire in California history. The wildfire crisis presents a historic, existential threat to all Californians and the economy, environment, and overall quality of life in the Golden State.

BuildStrong California will operate as a resource for state leaders as they build a more resilient future for California and its nearly 40 million residents. BuildStrong California advocates for a comprehensive approach to wildfire-related disaster preparedness, mitigation, recovery, and resiliency. This includes:

  1. Investing in the health of California’s forests, grasslands, and natural places to reduce the overall risk of catastrophic wildfires, including, but not limited to, improved forest management and the use of prescribed fire,
  2. Robust and consistent state and federal investment to strengthen community protection against wildfires when they do occur, including, but not limited to, community and home hardening with appropriate oversight to ensure meaningful mitigation, and creating and maintain fuel breaks,
  3. Building and rebuilding smarter by investing in more resilient homes, buildings, and lifeline infrastructure, which is more cost-effective in the long-term, to withstand wildfires when they do occur,
  4. Remaining nimble and exploring and implementing cutting-edge technology and scientific and evidence-based best practices to ensure California is using its limited resources to maximize outcomes for its residents and way of life, and
  5. Aiding the state in developing a unified, comprehensive, and collaborative approach to the state’s wildfire and other disaster related challenges that includes the federal government, regional agencies, cities and counties, as well as non-profits and other interested stakeholders.

BuildStrong Coalition members include the American Society of Civil Engineers; International Association of Fire Chiefs; International Code Council; National Emergency Management Association; and members of the insurance, infrastructure, and materials industries, among many others.