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Sacramento, CA, Feb. 10, 2020 – The size and scope of wildfires across California have increased in intensity and destruction over the past decade, impacting millions of residents and causing tens of billions in damage. 

The 2018 wildfire season eclipsed 2017 as the most destructive and deadliest year for wildfires in Golden State history. California’s largest, most destructive and deadly wildland fires have all taken place in the last decade – with over 38,000 homes, businesses and structures having been destroyed by California wildfires since 2015.

Because of this reality, the State of California has been and will continue to invest over a billion dollars in vegetation management and fire prevention funding over the next several years to help protect communities, but individual property owners in the wildland-urban interface have been on their own to pay for expensive hardening upgrades that will help make their home more fire safe.

Over 4.5 million homes are in the most threatened regions in the state and there is a desperate need to provide everyday middle class Californians with the tools they need to keep their home safe and help stabilize insurance markets in some of the most wildfire prone regions in the state. That’s why today, Senator Mike McGuire and several members of the legislature introduced SB 944 – the Fire Safe Home Tax Credit.

“Millions of Californians call the wildland-urban interface home and they are under increased threat by the growing size and scope of wildfires. This commonsense bill will help expedite desperately needed fire safe retrofits, which can be incredibly costly, on thousands of homes in the most threatened regions of our state,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “This fire safe tax credit program is part of a larger data driven plan to strategically invest in the most threatened communities to help neighbors retrofit their homes and usher in a more stabilized insurance market. We must act with urgency and provide middle class Californians with the tools they need to keep their homes and families safe.”

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Under SB 944, homeowners making less than $70,000 annually ($140,000 for a couple) would qualify for the tax credit for home hardening projects with the primary purpose of protection from wildfire. 

Qualified taxpayers can get a one-time tax credit, for up to $10,000, for completing home hardening projects already embedded in the state’s fire code, which could include: replacing roofs, exterior walls, vents, decks, fences and chimneys. Out-of-pocket expenses for vegetation management will also be eligible for the tax credit and include wildfire mitigation measures like the creation of defensible space and establishing fuel breaks.

Funding mitigation makes fiscal sense: the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that for every $1 spent on fire hardening measures to bring buildings up to current codes, $4 are saved—including countless lives, billions of dollars in property damage, and hundreds of millions of avoided insurance costs.

In California, the return on investment can approach $6 for each dollar of mitigation. 

The Fire Safe Home Tax Credit is co-authored by: Senators Stern, Rubio, Dahle, Dodd, Galgiani, Hill, Jackson and Nielsen and Assemblymembers Aguiar-Curry, Friedman, Wood and Gallagher.