BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  AB 635
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          Date of Hearing:   May 6, 2009

                              Curren D. Price, Chairman
                AB 635 (V. Manuel Perez) - As Amended:  April 2, 2009
          SUBJECT  :   Fire protection: air purifying devices

           SUMMARY  :   Provides that a state or local agency shall not  
          prohibit a firefighter from using an air purifying device during  
          a wildfire.  Specifically,  this bill  :   

             1)   A state or local agency, including a city, county, city  
               and county, or district, shall not prohibit a firefighter  
               from using an air purifying device during a wildland fire  
               [Health and Safety Code Section 13065].

           EXISTING LAW   

             1)   Establishes the State Board of Fire Services in the  
               Office of the State Fire Marshal (SFM).

             2)   Requires the board to recommend the establishment of  
               minimum standards with respect to specified elements of  
               fire protection, including fire equipment.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   This bill is keyed non-fiscal.

           COMMENTS  :   

           Purpose of the bill  .  According to the sponsor, this bill would  
          provide firefighters the right to wear respiratory protection,  
          in the form of an anti-pollution scarf and other related  
          accessories, during the course of their duty in fighting or  
          controlling outdoor wildfires (i.e. woodlands, forests,  
          grasslands, brush, and prairies).  The sponsor maintains that  
          the use of air purifying respirators could reduce harmful  
          constituent exposures listed under the California Division of  
          Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) standards to more  
          acceptable levels for firefighters and their safety.

           Background  .  According to the author, wildfires are a growing  
          hazard in most regions of the United States, especially in  
          California.  In the past few years, California has seen some  


                                                                  AB 635
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          devastating wildfires that have threatened life and property.   
          For example, in Shasta and Trinity County, one wildfire consumed  
          86,500 acres.  In 2008 alone, Southern California counties such  
          as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and  
          Ventura have all experienced devastating wildfires that have  
          injured people, damaged property, and spread hazardous material  
          into the atmosphere.  The author summarizes, "Our firefighters  
          provide a rapid response to fight these wildfires."

          Firefighters face varying levels of risk for smoke inhalation,  
          which depends on the intensity of the fire, their proximity to  
          the fire, their activity, weather conditions, and the terrain.   
          Such inhalation exposes them to smoke, gases, and even  
          particulate matter that are deemed extremely harmful to a  
          person's health and well being.  

          Smoke is composed mainly of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon  
          monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides,  
          trace minerals, and thousands of other compounds.  Particulates  
          are the principle pollutant of concern, because they can be  
          inhaled into the deepest recesses of the lungs.  Hot smoke and  
          gases are another concern because they can burn the passages of  
          the nose, airways, and lungs.  Additionally, higher levels of  
          carbon monoxide exposure can also lead to headaches, dizziness,  
          visual impairment, and death.

          Any equipment used by firefighters, while performing their  
          duties, must first be approved by regulatory agencies.  Examples  
          of regulatory agencies for firefighters are the Cal-OSHA,  
          Department of Weights and Measures, and the California State  
          Fire Marshall.  Cal-OSHA creates standards for safety equipment  
          and develops safety procedures for specific workplace  
          environments that are deemed hazardous.  Specifically, Cal-OSHA  
          provides that any person may voluntarily wear a respiratory  
          device as long as their exposure surpasses the set Permissive  
          Exposure Levels (PEL).  PEL is the minimum level of particulates  
          before Cal-OSHA suggests the usage of an air purifying device.

          Currently, there is no explicit statute that allows firefighters  
          to use air purifying respiratory devices while battling a  
          wildland fire.  Due to the lack of authorization from the  
          legislature to use air purifying devices, certain fire  
          departments have prohibited their firefighters from properly  
          equipping themselves.  This holds true even if the firefighter  
          has purchased a purifying device. 


                                                                  AB 635
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          AB 635 does not mandate firefighters to use air purifying  
          devices during a wildland fire.  This bill provides our state's  
          firefighters with the option to use such devices if they wish to  
          further protect themselves. 


          California State Firefighters' Association, Inc. (sponsor)

          None on file
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Rod Brewer / G. O. / (916) 319-2531