Congressman gets wildfire assistance bill passed

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Included in the scramble and confusion of the recent congressional appropriations bill, U.S. Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz succeeded in gaining approval of his “Wildfire Prevention Act.”

On Friday, Feb. 9, when President Donald Trump signed H.R. 1892, the supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2017-18, the language of Ruiz’s bill, H.R. 1183, Wildfire Prevention Act,” was included.

On his Facebook page, Ruiz proudly wrote, “My bipartisan ‘Wildfire Prevention Act’ became law today! It aims to provide millions of dollars in much needed relief for our district’s mountain communities and for the many people still recovering from past wildfires …. This is a big win for our local communities and all those still recovering from major wildfires.”

The language would allow recipients of Fire Management Assistance Grants to take steps to prevent future wildfire disasters, as well as recover from the recent wildfire disasters.

The need for this flexibility is prevention of further danger as well as extinguishing a current fire. The grants are limited to fighting fires, but post-disaster support is needed, too. Examples of post-fire danger include the flooding seen at the Thomas Fire site. And positive steps to help prevent future wildfires can be taken, too. This would make wildfire disaster relief consistent with aid for other natural disasters, according to the press release.

The financial assistance may now be used for the following projects and activities:

• reseeding ground cover with quick-growing or native species;

• mulching with straw or chipped wood;

• constructing straw, rock, or log dams in small tributaries to prevent flooding;

• placing logs and other erosion barriers to catch sediment on hill slopes;

• installing debris traps to modify road and trail drainage mechanisms;

• modifying or removing culverts to allow drainage to flow freely;

• adding drainage dips and constructing emergency spillways to keep roads and bridges from washing out during floods;

• planting grass to prevent the spread of noxious weeds;

• installing warning signs;

• establishing defensible space measures; and

• reducing hazardous fuels

The language applies only to fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19, but Ruiz is already working to make this language permanent, according to Hernan Quintas of his staff.

Ruiz will be in Idyllwild this week. On Thursday evening (Feb. 22), he will be the featured speaker at the Idyllwild Indivisible’s 6 p.m. meeting at Town Hall.

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