We spend a lot of ink criticizing state bureaucrats for their alleged failings, but this time we thought we should talk about a success story.

Last year was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season in California history and the Contractors State License Board is working harder than ever to protect both the victims of the fires and floods and our industry from the scammers who hover over disasters like vultures.

More than 7,500 wildfires burned almost 1.7 million acres of land in the state in 2018. The Mendocino Complex Fire in Colusa, Glenn, Lake, and Mendocino counties burned more than 459,000 acres, making it the single largest wildfire in state history. The Camp Fire in Butte County was the deadliest and most destructive, with 85 deaths and 18,804 structures destroyed. For the year, 98 civilians and six firefighters were killed as a result of wildfires across California.

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) made one of its biggest coordinated commitments to post-disaster recovery efforts in its 90-year history. Their mission is to help ensure that survivors are not victimized by unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors who may try to take advantage of them during the recovery and rebuilding process. This also protects the good guys in our industry, like our members, who play by the rules.

 

CSLB Post-Disaster Response

CSLB invested significant resources in its post-disaster response program. The first step is to staff various assistance centers opened for survivors run by the Governor’s Office of Emergency

Services (OES) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The agency staffed 18 assistance centers, directly meeting with almost 2,900 disaster survivors, working 4,600 hours during the process. Staff assembled, shipped, or delivered thousands of educational materials for distribution at the centers, offices of local legislators, building departments, and chambers of commerce.

 

Scam Warning Signs

CSLB also posted hundreds of signs, in both English and Spanish, throughout disaster areas to warn homeowners that unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors may try to scam them. The signs also warn unlicensed contractors that it is a felony to contract without a valid state license in a declared disaster area.

Then CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) investigators conducted 80 days of sweep operations within disaster areas. They used fire-damaged properties as bait for six enforcement stings, resulting in 18 administrative citations, referred 71 cases to the local district attorneys for criminal prosecution (including multiple felony cases), issued 45 stop orders, and wrote 90 advisory notices for minor violations.

 

Good job, CSLB, and Thanks!.

 

By Rich Lambros, ECA Interim Executive Director Email: [email protected]