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Permanent Fire-Protection Regulations Moving Forward

California regulators narrowly moved Wednesday to enact permanent rules making it cheaper and easier to thin fire-prone forests near mountain communities and along evacuation routes.

The rules are designed to trim forests that have become overgrown after a century of fire-suppression — sparking catastrophic fires like those in Southern California last fall. The rules have won rare support from both environmental groups and the timber industry.

A split Board of Forestry and Fire Protection scheduled public hearings so the permanent rules can take effect next year. Proponents say that will encourage a new industry of contractors who will remove overgrowth for small timberland owners who can least afford the time and cost of thinning their property.