Today, Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Rep. Paul Cook (CA-8), Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-3), and Rep. Jared Polis (CO-2) introduced bipartisan legislation that would authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to proactively coordinate with states and localities on wildfire mitigation projects. The bill, which places wildfires on par with other natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes, would make states eligible to receive an additional 15 percent of the total funds FEMA allocates for fire suppression to support wildfire-mitigation efforts.
"This year the West, including parts of my district, have had one of the most destructive and devastating wildfire seasons in history," said Dr. Ruiz. "It is critical that we provide firefighters with the means necessary to reduce these disasters to save lives, property, and resources. This bill is a commonsense solution that will go a long way towards helping California and other states prevent future wildfires."
"We've seen over the past few years the devastation wildfires can cause," said Cook. "With an abundance of forest land in my district, I'm very concerned about the potential of future fires. Time and time again, our firefighters have risen to the challenge, but it's also important that we do all we can to prevent wildfires as well."
"Our forests provide limitless environmental and economic benefits when healthy and it's our responsibility to preserve this incredible natural resource. Unfortunately many of our forest lands are in a state of emergency--at high risk for catastrophic wildfire due to unnaturally dense growth, drought conditions and other factors. We must do more to restore forest health, and prevent future loss of life and property to catastrophic wildfire. For too long we have been working to stop fires once they start instead of proactively addressing the conditions that cause them. As the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,'" said Tipton. "By making FEMA resources available for hazard mitigation in our forests, this legislation will help take a more proactive approach to restoring forests to a healthy natural state, and do so without increasing taxpayer spending."
"My commitment to this issue is longstanding and I am happy to build on my previous success to curb the growing threat of wildfires in the West," said Polis. "Funding wildfire mitigation work is cost effective because it is proven to greatly reduce the damage caused by wildfires that strike our communities. Unfortunately, drought and record high temperatures have increased the threat of wildfires in Colorado, so this bill is essential to proactively minimize risk before wildfires start."
The Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013 allows FEMA to proactively fund the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program with an additional 15 percent of funds already allocated for the Fire Management Assistance Grant program to address wildfire risks. The program's funds currently are only used for wildfire suppression. This is important for western states that do not often experience major disaster declarations, but have frequent large wildfires.