Fatal Wildfires Prompt New Statewide Emergency Alert Bill

house on fire

House burning during the Redwood Fire. [Photo by Michael Godinez]

Press release from Senator Mike McGuire’s Office:

North Bay legislators officially introduced a bill that will set statewide emergency alert protocols following the devastating firestorm that ravaged Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties, destroying over 6,000 homes, scorching more than 170,000 acres, causing billions in damage and resulting in the death of more than 40 residents.

“The size and scope of wild land fire events in California are only getting worse. It’s clear there are shortcomings in our emergency alert system and residents deserve timely notifications and up-to-date information,” Senator Mike McGuire (D-North Bay) said. “Lives depend on the Legislature and Governor taking swift action to ensure statewide emergency alert standards are adopted, training is implemented and funding is secured to ensure communities big and small have reliable alert systems deployed.”

SB 833, introduced this week by Senator McGuire, along with Joint authors Senators Bill Dodd and Jerry Hill, and Principal Co-Authors Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Marc Levine and Jim Wood, creates statewide emergency alert protocols.

There are several different emergency warning systems available to counties that alert residents through cell phone calls, text messages, and landline recordings. Some systems require residents to “opt-in” to the alert notifications, and others have limitations on how they can be targeted in specific areas.

SB 833 will require every county in California to adopt the up-to-date Wireless Emergency Alert system with trained operators who can implement an evacuation order using the alert system. The legislation will also set out standards for when counties should use the system, the legislation will mandate that alerts have to be sent out via landline telephones and mobile phones along with other communication mediums, it will advance communication between counties and the state at the start of a disaster and it will create guidelines and protocols for when and how the alerts should be sent.

“When wildfires and other disasters strike, it’s critical that impacted residents get emergency alerts as quickly as possible,” said Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa). “Regardless of where you live in California, everyone should be able to rely on a comprehensive, modern warning systems that gets information to the people who need it, when they need it. Emergency alerts can save lives, which is why Senator McGuire and I are partnering with our colleagues in the state Assembly to advance a system that meets our twenty-first century needs.”

“The raging wildfires endangering Californians across the state is without precedent. Lawmakers must protect our communities with the best safety notifications available to prevent loss of life during emergency situations,” said Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County). “All California communities should have dependable emergency alert systems and be notified when lives are in danger.”

“The recent devastating fires in Northern California have put laser focus on our need to fix our emergency notification system,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg). As we now see with the fires in Southern California, the time is now to protect our residents with a system that works for everyone, both urban and rural.”

“As a Member of the Joint Committee on Emergency Management, we heard testimony this week on how critical it is for local governments to alert our mutual constituents in times of crisis,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters).  “I’m happy to join in this effort with my legislative and local government colleagues, and I look forward to continuing our work together that started during the North Bay wildfires.  As the recovery continues, we must also stay vigilant to protect people in the event of future emergencies.”

“Last year’s fires exposed deadly problems in our emergency alert patchwork,” said Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties). “I applaud Senator McGuire for leading this effort to make sure that the state and local governments properly notify and evacuate residents to save lives during emergencies.”



  • How about using some of the Calfire fee to clean up brush, undergrowth and limb up the trees.


    • There is no longer a Cal Fire fee. Those costs were included in the cap and trade program. Good news for rural homeowners, one less bill to take care of.

      • When I called to disagree with the “Fire Tax”, I was told to clearly mark my bill and check “PAID UNDER PROTEST.” The object was to obtain a refund when the smoke cleared (sorry) and the fee was either rescinded or passed off to another government entity. So far, the Board of Equalization has not responded to my latest calls. It is entirely possible that the $ will be lost or buried, yet I persist.

  • An alert system is a good idea; they should at least have a horn like Arcata
    used to have. Clearing out undergrowth and dead trees like they used to
    would also help.

    • The Hermit of Grizzly Mountain

      Yeah. California needs a big horn or maybe lots of smaller horns. And different sirens for different types of emergencies. Two squawks its an earthquake, an undulating siren warns of wildfire, a long series of staccato beeps for tidal surge, and a sad trombone for falling cannabis prices. Wah-waaaah!

  • I feel another tax coming!

  • Lets see, Hasn’t rained for a year, 95 degrees, 10% humidity, wind speed is around 60 m.p.h. and you smell smoke but its not like the bbq joint down the street smell.I would have to say that’s a pretty good warning right there. And no new taxes for common sense (yet).

  • Get a load of this: Supervisors McCowen and Hamburg (Mendocino Co) recently came up with an idea worthy of the knee-jerk-of-the-year award. They propose all new Class K housing be required to have interior sprinkler systems. Got that? These sheltered souls need a hobby, they obviously have too much time on their hands. Sheesh.

  • Interesting legislation considering both Redwood Valley Fire Dept. And Potter Valley Fire Depy decided not to send out a siren alert or cell phone reverse 911 evacuation alert until it was too late, several residents perished in the rapid moving fire! Potter Valley made the conscious decision not to send out a notice they said residents wouldn’t have known what to do….. really! Residents would have at least been awakened and had a chance to figure out what to do and get out…. but nope, no siren or alert meant tragedy! Then the Mendocino Sheriff Dep. never sent out alerts to Redwood Valley despite deputy pleas… apparently they were waiting for the “head of OES” that happens to be non other than Tom Allman who was in Las Vegas on vacation according to media reports….. what is the reason nobody received a alert or reverse 911, is it because the head of Office of Emergency Services was out of the area and the next in line was not available……? We deserve answers!

  • So Kym, doesn’t Humboldt have this? I thought I signed up, but never receive alerts….

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