Newsom cites McClatchy fire report, advocates for retrofitting

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday used data from a McClatchy investigation Friday as he rolled out possible strategies for helping California’s utilities cope with the staggering costs of wildfires in an era of climate change.

The governor cited “Destined to Burn” – the series McClatchy produced in partnership with the Associated Press, Media News and Gannett – as he spoke about the need to encourage property owners to retrofit older homes to improve fire protection.

McClatchy examined the state’s 2008 building code, which requires fire-resistant roofing materials, windows and more, and concluded that it made a big difference in saving homes during November’s Camp Fire, the most destructive fire in California history.

Newsom said “51 percent of the homes that were built after 2008 ... survived the fire. Just 18 percent of the homes that were built before 2008 survived the wildfire. Unfortunately, just 3 percent of the homes in Paradise were built after 2008 — thus the destruction.”

With so many of California’s homes built before the building code took effect, “you’ve got to get in and retrofit,” he told reporters at a press conference at the Office of Emergency Services operations center.

AB 38, by state Sen. Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, would create a $1 billion loan fund to help homeowners with retrofits. Newsom didn’t mention Wood’s bill but did say the state should “identify appropriate funding and financing for home hardening.”