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United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MATHESON. Mr. Chairman, once again the Science Committee brings to the House floor a bill that makes sense, that was developed in a bipartisan way. It's a great tradition of this committee, and I think Members on both sides of the aisle on that committee know what a great committee it is to work on.

And I want to thank Congressman Mitchell, in particular, for taking the lead on this issue, because his approach really fits into the Science Committee approach about how we look at issues, and we try to work together in a bipartisan way to make progress. And that's why I'm happy to stand up and offer my support for this bill today.

In the grand scheme of things, one of the reasons why I think this is incredibly important is that the United States has one of the highest fire-related death rates among all industrialized nations. Think about that. With all the technology we have in this country, all the safety measures, we still rank so poorly among industrialized nations in terms of fire-related deaths. And this legislation takes a step in terms of trying to address that problem.

Now, I come from a western State, the State of Utah; and in the West, we have particular danger in terms of forest fires. This legislation fully funds the National Fire Incident Reporting System, which is going to help the U.S. Fire Administration prevent future forest fires. Currently, we're only able to capture data from 50 percent of wildfires, which just is not enough.

By improving the incident reporting system, the U.S. Fire Administration

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will be able to speed up the reporting data, generating a more comprehensive database. In practical terms, that's going to mean better analysis, greater fire prevention, and fewer lives lost.

And, in particular, this bill, if enacted, will expand the program to include training in wildland-urban interface areas. And this is an issue that's particularly important in western States where, as population growth has taken place, there has been greater development of housing that's moved more into where the forest exists; and that's a critical problem during these wildfire incidents is how we deal with fire issues in that very sensitive area.

Most of my congressional district faces this problem, and my congressional district is not unusual compared to most of the West. I believe better training in terms of this wildland-urban interface will be a huge asset to Fire Departments in similar areas.

So Mr. Chairman, I want to again thank you for your leadership on this issue. I thank Chairman Gordon and ranking member HALL. I thank Chairman Wu from the subcommittee. I thank Congressman Mitchell for his leadership. I know Mr. Gingrey's been a leader on this issue as well. And again, the Science Committee, as usual, comes up with a bill that makes sense. I'm sure it will be adopted today, and I urge all my colleagues to support the bill.

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