Headline Graphic for California's Wildfire Resilience Program 2022


This report provides an overview of California’s Wildfire Resilience investments through March 1, 2023, a program-by-program description of the 40 programs these investments fund, examples of recent impacts from each of those programs, and an interactive table that shows the status, location and description of each of the nearly 1,200 projects already completed or underway. This report does not cover California’s significant investments in wildfire response, which include firefighters and equipment.

2022 Budget Report

Program Overview

Executive Summary

California has undertaken an urgent paradigm shift to dramatically scale up wildfire resilience activities to address the growing wildfire crisis. Preventative wildfire resilience efforts such as prescribed burns, strategic fuel breaks and home hardening alter a fire’s behavior and can help both communities and wildlands survive wildfires.

In addition to resilience projects, over the past two years, California invested in workforce development, regulatory efficiencies, regional coordination, improved science, and wood products businesses. This extensive response helped establish a structural foundation that is needed to sustain robust wildfire resilience. Additionally, California fine-tuned business practices for contracting, grants, and environmental oversight processes to get resources on the ground quickly.

California’s unprecedented three-year, $2.7 billion commitment to wildfire resilience is already protecting California’s watersheds, wildlands, and communities. In 2018, California committed $200 million annually to support wildfire resilience programs. In 2021, wildfire resilience investments surged to a three-year $2.7 billion investment. This included $1.5 billion in 2021, $630 million in 2022 and an anticipated $664 million in 2023. This report does not cover California’s significant investments in wildfire response, which include firefighters and equipment.

These investments span 40 programs implemented through an “all hands-on deck” approach by 22 different departments. The State shifted business practices to quickly turn these resources into real world projects. In less than two years, this funding launched nearly 1,200 wildfire resilience projects throughout the State.

The 2022 fire season demonstrated that California’s unprecedented investment in wildfire resilience and improved tactical suppression tools can dramatically limit the damage and devastation of wildfires, even in the age of climate change.

Although California experienced similar drought and heat extremes in 2022 as seen in previous devastating fire seasons, and there was a larger total number of fires than the previous year, the 2022 fire season yielded a fraction of the devastation. In 2022, 362,000 acres burned and nearly 800 structures were lost compared to 2.5 million acres burned and 3,500 structures lost in 2021, and 4 million acres burned and 11,000 structures lost in 2020.

This improved trend was due to more than the luck of the weather. California’s unprecedented investment in wildfire resilience resulted in a surge of activity and projects across the State that help moderate wildfire behavior. These fuel reduction projects paired with CAL FIRE’s expanded fast suppression response, like helitankers and helicopters with nearly the water capacity of a C-130, enabled most fires experienced in 2022 to remain small. For example, several fires that were initially predicted to be megafires, such as the Electra Fire in Amador County or the Oak Fire in Placer County, encountered recent fuel reduction projects in their initial hours and were quickly contained.

Collaboration Through the Task Force:

The California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force (Task Force) was established in 2021 to advance an integrated approach toward creating landscape and community resilience. The Task Force’s purpose is to deliver on the key commitments in the California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan (Action Plan) – a comprehensive framework for establishing healthy and resilient landscapes and communities that can withstand and adapt to wildfire, drought and a changing climate.

The Task Force helps ensure California’s investments are coordinated with federal and local programs. The Task Force and its work groups continued developing Joint Strategies in 2022 that set aggressive yet achievable targets for critical components of the Action Plan. For example, California’s Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire highlighted key barriers to prescribed fire – including lack of access to prescribed fire insurance – and identified solutions to align efforts. The Administration worked with the Legislature to develop a plan to address this in SB 926 (Dodd, 2022), which created the prescribed fire liability program, a $20 million state program that covers damage liability of up to $2 million for permitted prescribed fire projects.

The Task Force provides more information on its activities in 2022 in its End of Year Report.


California’s investments in Wildfire Resilience are already translating into tangible results:

On-the-ground projects

  • CAL FIRE’s Forest Health grant program has awarded more than 400 grants since 2021.
  • CAL FIRE’s urban forestry program grants will plant 37,000 trees over the next five years. One of the grantees, Plant Justice in Oakland, is employing formerly incarcerated individuals and members of other vulnerable communities to expand the urban tree canopy in the East Bay.
  • California State Parks is improving wildfire resilience by reducing fuels and using prescribed fire in 42 parks statewide. In 2022 State Parks received 11 new fire engines and other equipment to increase on-the-ground treatment acreage. These investments, and planning efforts are creating the foundation for ecological fire resilience into the future.
  • The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has invested in 70 wildfire resilience projects covering 84,000 acres of unique habitat in California. This included installing 32,000 yards of fencing to enable prescribed grazing across these lands and re-seeding more than 4,000 acres of critical habitat that had been burned.
  • The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy invested in dozens of projects, including a Highway 101 ignition prevention program, replacing invasive fire-prone grasses with native oaks which are both more resilient to wildfire and capture carbon emissions.

Foundational investments

  • Investments in science and monitoring have resulted in 11 new University of California Wildfire Science advisors being stationed throughout the State.
  • California’s remote sensing investments enabled matching grants from the U.S. Geologic Survey to collect roughly 30 million acres of new LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), which uses a remote sensing method to make a detailed 3-D map of the current topography and vegetation for every high fire risk region of California.
  • The Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program was able to expand to 13 large-scale regional collaboratives, now ensuring every fire-prone region of the State has staffing and expertise to coordinate and develop wildfire resilience projects across federal, state, local, tribal and non-profit partners. For example, the partnership in Los Angeles and Riverside counties launched the first indigenous Conservation Corps and will accelerate wildfire resilience projects across 250,000 acres.
  • Investments in regulatory reform have enabled the State and Regional Water Boards, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to fully synchronize permits into a consolidated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review process called the California Vegetation Treatment Program (CalVTP). There are now 93 CalVTP permits underway (46 approved; 47 in process) covering more than 1 million acres of high fire risk areas. This enables wildfire resilience projects that do not qualify for emergency or exemption permits to complete CEQA review within several months rather than years.
  • Investments in workforce development, like the new Forestry Corps branch of the California Conservation Corps, has enabled year-round fuel reduction and restoration work. The Forestry Corps helped recover 20 miles of burned trails throughout Big Basin State Park, enabling its reopening.

Lessons Learned

The speed of implementation for these near 1,200 projects is noteworthy. The initial $500 million in “early action” funding received in April 2021 was designed to surge activity quickly and put a foundation of wildfire resilience projects in place for the 2022 fire season. To move at the speed of the crisis, the Legislature allowed for no-bid contracting for wildfire resilience projects, shortening the contracting timeline from years to several weeks. State entities focused on investing in “shovel-ready” projects for the initial round of awards, meaning projects that had secured environmental reviews were approved. Departments also adjusted their grant processes enabling many grants to be awarded within a month of the appropriation. These shifts in state processes resulted in dozens of projects being ready during fire season 2021 and more than a thousand projects ready during fire season 2022.


In 2020 and 2021, California experienced back-to-back devastating wildfire seasons. In just two years, more than 17,000 fires consumed nearly 7 million acres of California – an area the size of the state of Massachusetts. These fires decimated mountain communities including Grizzly Flats, Greenville, and Berry Creek, and forced well over a quarter of a million people to evacuate. Wildfires compound existing crises from public health to homelessness, straining the endurance of weary California communities.

Forest with Smokey Skies
Photo Credit: Tahoe Conservancy

For the first time in recorded history, in 2020, California experienced the first fire to exceed a million acres, followed in 2021 by the Dixie Fire, just short of a million acres. Fire behavior was unprecedented with flames larger than 20-story buildings, burning three miles ahead of the main fire, and for the first time in history, burning up and over the granite crest of the Sierra Nevada.

Most of these fires were in the upper watersheds of the Sierra Nevada, which sources 60 percent of California’s water, exacerbating drought and mudslide conditions, creating a compounding cycle of climate catastrophes.

History of the Fire Crisis:

This historic, unparalleled crisis stems from two compounding factors: hotter, drier climate conditions colliding with century-old political decisions of over-logging and fire suppression that left California’s forests weak and over-stressed.

Fire, like water, is an integral part of California’s natural ecology. Many ecosystems have adapted to frequent fires that burn at low temperatures and help germinate seeds and return nutrients to the soil. California Native American tribes actively managed California’s wildlands with cultural fire since time immemorial.

But a federal fire suppression policy that extended into the 1970s changed the structure of the forest and caused significant buildup of fuel, much of which must be removed before natural fire regimes can be restored.

Recent wildfires are far outside of their ecological norms. Much like a dam breaking and releasing pent up water, current fires are burning 100 years of woody material in several weeks rather than several decades. Unprecedented drought and heat dry that fuel and the result is catastrophic wildfires that decimate any ecologies and communities in their path.

Solving the Fire Crisis:

Although wildfires are growing more extreme, a fire-resilient California is within reach. Science-based adaptations are proving effective. While fires are not going away, adaptations across wildlands, around communities, and within communities are changing how and where fires burn, improving the safety of communities and ecosystems. Fires will still burn, but these adaptations will help return fire to its ecological role, even in an era of climate change.

Firefighters Starting Prescribed Pile Burn
Photo Credit: Tahoe Conservancy

Success Story – Sequoias

California’s investments are driving federal and non-profit investments to California. For example, the State joined the California Giant Sequoia Land Coalition, a collaborative of State, federal, tribal, and non-profit land stewards who worked to expediate protection of the most critical old growth Sequoia groves in California. In the 2020 and 2021 fires, an unprecedented 11,000-year-old growth of monarch sequoias were killed. The death of old growth sequoias stands is rare – in the last 800 years, the loss of less than five stands of old growth sequoia have been recorded – with between a dozen to several hundred trees in each of the incidents. Hence, when two catastrophic fire seasons destroyed 11,000-year-old growth trees – roughly 20 percent of the old growth sequoia population, California shifted into emergency mode. The California Giant Sequoia Land Coalition identified the groves in most urgent need of protection. California’s investments expedited projects in these groves, federal partners declared an emergency and within a year, 36 of the most critical old growth groves in California were receiving protected from fire. When large fires came through these old growth groves in 2022, like the Mosquito Fire in Placer County or the Oak Fire in Yosemite, the fire burned at low intensity and these millennia-old monarch trees survived.

National Park Service scientist hikes into Redwood Mountain Grove to look at post-fire effects on giant sequoias. Photo by Daniel Jeffcoach, National Park Service

California’s Approach to Wildfire Resilience

California’s wildfire resilience investments span three core areas of resilience designed to modify a wildfire’s behavior: Investments within communities like home hardening and defensible space, investments around communities like strategic fuel breaks, and investments restoring broad landscapes and watersheds, like prescribed fire. The program also invested in foundational areas that help increase the pace and scale of these activities. This includes workforce development, growing regional capacity and coordination, scientific monitoring and research, regulatory efficiencies, and developing businesses that utilize wood to help avoid burning slash piles.


Within Communities

Home hardening and defensible space helps make homes less prone to ignition when fires are burning. Simple home improvements like mesh over vents on attics and double-pained windows prevent embers from getting into homes. Fire-resilient landscaping, called defensible space, keeps the worst of direct flames and heat away from homes during a fire. These steps dramatically improve a house’s survivability in a wildfire. These individual actions are even more effective when neighborhoods do them collectively, thus preventing home-to-home ignition during a wildfire.

California’s building codes and defensible space rules incorporate these standards and and make communities more resilient to wildfire. For example, in the 2018 Camp Fire, the homes built after the 2008 Chapter 7A building code updates had a roughly 50 percent survival rate, while homes built before 2008 had a 10 percent survival rate. Millions of homes will require simple retrofits to achieve the higher standard.

Wildfire resilience investments within communities include:

  • Education and outreach through the UC fire advisors
  • Expanding the defensible space inspector program
  • Launching a new home hardening retrofit program for lower income Californians
  • Wildfire resilience grants to support home hardening and defensible space projects

These efforts complement a recent collaboration between CAL FIRE and the Department of Insurance to create insurance incentives and discounts for both homeowners and neighborhoods to encourage risk reduction activities like defensible space, home hardening and fuel breaks.

Around Communities

Strategic fuel breaks, wide long strips of thinned vegetation and forest, change the behavior of a fire by changing the fuel bed. This gives firefighters a tactical advantage during a fire fight. Fuel breaks enable firefighters to stage equipment, establish defensible lines, and create buffers along roads to help evacuation during a wildfire. During the2021 Caldor Fire, the network of fuel breaks around Pollock Pines and South Lake Tahoe helped save the communities. Firefighters saw flame lengths drop from 150 feet to 15 feet when the fire entered a shaded fuel break in Christmas Valley, enabling firefighters to approach the fire and keep it away from homes. Wildfire Resilience Investments in fuel breaks include:

  • Wildfire Resilience Grants to communities and counties
  • CAL FIRE unit fuel reduction projects
  • CAL FIRE fuel reduction crews
  • Forestry Corps, California Conservation Corps Fuels crews

Across Watersheds and Wildlands

California’s drought-stressed wildlands are at critical risk when catastrophic fires break out. High intensity wildfires, like the Dixie Fire, decimated the Feather River watershed, the headwaters of the State Water Project. The Sierra Nevada region has experienced more fire in the first two years of this decade than in any of the previous seven decades.

Resilience interventions for California’s wildlands either restore native plants or remove excess fuel to the point that natural fire or grazing regimes can be restored.

But the mosaic ownership of California’s landscapes complicate execution of these projects. The federal government owns 57 percent of California’s wildlands, the State owns 3 percent, and 40 percent is held by private entities and tribes. Since fires do not pause at jurisdictional boundaries, California’s wildfire resilience investments ensure that every landowner has the resources and coordination to establish cohesive, landscape-scale resilience, including:

  • A large forest health grant program
  • Wildfire resilience programs for State-owned land including State Parks and Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Grants for small forest landowners, who own 26 percent of California’s forestland in small patchwork parcels
  • A new grant program exclusively for California Native American Tribes
California Natural Resources Agency Graphic

Foundational Investments

To sustainably achieve wildfire resilience at a large scale the State also needed to invest in the foundation for resilience. These investments include regional collaboratives, science and data, permit efficiencies, workforce development and wood product infrastructure.


Regional Collaboratives

The State is investing in regional collaboratives to drive statewide grants and programs to ensure fire resilience is cohesive and tailored to local conditions.

California’s diverse ecologies, from the coastal redwoods to Southern California chaparral, all have unique natural fire regimes and therefore require a tailored approach. By investing in regional collaboratives and regional planning, local knowledge can help direct state and federal investments. The California Department of Conservation operates the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program, while State conservancies anchor the regional strategies and help develop more local collaboratives.

Science and Data

Achieving effective, long-term forest health and restoration during a dynamic environment of high-severity wildfire and climate change requires rigorous monitoring and robust scientific inquiry. State investments in science and data include:

  • Spatial data investments in advancements like LiDAR
  • Ground data investments like Forest Inventory Assessment Plots
  • Data analytics tools like forest change detection
  • Research grants to further scientific knowledge like the connection between forests and drought

Permit Efficiencies

To expedite environmental review for urgently needed vegetation management, California completed the CalVTP, a 20-million-acre environmental impact review, covering the non-federal, fire-prone land in California. This reduces the CEQA timeline from years to months for wildfire fuel reduction projects. The CalVTP also provides a CEQA platform for multi- agency permits including the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State and Regional Water Boards. Although the initial wildfire resilience funding focused on “shovel ready” projects, many of the newer projects that either were too big or too complex to use an exemption, are relying on the CalVTP to quickly comply with multiple environmental regulations. Investments in permit efficiencies included:

  • Hiring and environmental consulting firm to conduct CAL VTP project specific analysis
  • Funding staff at the State Water Boards to fund synchronized permit with CAL VTP
  • Funding local air districts to support prescribed fire burn permits

Workforce Development

Grants to develop community college programs, professional certifications, and training will be crucial to ensuring a trained workforce is available to execute projects at a faster pace. Investing in local workforce programs helps ensure State investments in wildfire resilience translate into reliable local jobs and careers. Investments include:

  • New CAL FIRE workforce development grant program
  • California Forestry Corps program at the California Conservation Corps
  • Hiring CAL FIRE fuels crews

Wood Products Infrastructure

We cannot achieve lasting wildfire resilience without major private-sector investments in forest management. A thriving market is essential to assure that otherwise non-merchantable material is not left in the forest to be pile-burned or complicate a wildfire. By creating an economic use of these products, the State will generate strong, sustained private investments in forest health. Investments include:

  • Loans and loan guarantees for forest/wood sector businesses
  • Feed stock aggregation pilots designed to stabilize the supply chain
  • Subsidies for woody feedstock transportation
  • Small business development grants

Program Reports

Goal 1 – Increase the Pace and Scale of Forest Health Projects

To meet the unprecedented challenges we face, California is significantly increasing the pace and scale of forest health and community resilience projects. The programs listed below are improving the health and resilience of the state’s forested landscapes, including woodlands, grasslands, chaparral, shrublands, and related vegetation types that yield both ecological and community benefits. The programs are promoting healthy vegetation to improve climate resilience, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, safeguard water and air quality, protect fish and wildlife habitat, enhance biodiversity, sequester carbon, improve recreational opportunities, and generate job and economic opportunities.

Goal 2 – Strengthen Protection of Communities

More frequent, larger, high-severity wildfires threaten communities throughout California, with vulnerable communities located across a range of landscapes with diverse vegetation types. While better forest management will reduce wildfire risk in California’s forested regions, California is also applying diverse strategies to protect much of the State’s population that lives in cities and towns outside of forests. The programs listed below are hardening homes, buildings and infrastructure, increasing defensible space and fuel breaks, and strengthening community planning and preparedness.

Goal 3 – Manage Forests to Achieve the State’s Economic and Environmental Goals

Healthy forests provide a range of benefits, boosting climate resilience, increasing carbon sequestration, protecting water supply, improving air quality, cooling communities, providing habitat for wildlife, and supporting local economies. Accordingly, California’s forested landscapes are a key component of the state’s strategy to combat climate change, promote biodiversity, and support rural economic development. The programs listed below are accelerating solutions to combat climate change, protect biodiversity and build resilience through nature-based solutions.

Goal 4 – Innovate and Measure Progress

The State continues to invest in inventory and monitoring programs to understand the status of and trends within forests and other natural lands. Data gathered from these efforts are key inputs into modeling efforts that provide an understanding of the past, present, and future of forests, fire, and climate in California. The programs listed below are aligning the efforts of state, federal and local agencies by providing comprehensive assessments and strategies for improving the health and resilience of the state’s forested lands.

Budget Tables