On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-36) along with three other Congressmen introduced legislation that would authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to proactively coordinate with states and localities on wildfire mitigation projects.
The Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013 (H.R. 3333) places wildfires on par with other natural disasters such as floods and tornadoes. The result makes 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.”
The bipartisan group of sponsors, along with Ruiz, includes Democrat Rep. Jared Polis from Colorado and two Republicans, Rep. Paul Cook (CA-8) and Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-3).
“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,’” Rep. Tipton one of the co-sponsors.
The proposed legislation will allow 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.
H.R. 3333 has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
This is important for western states that do not often experience major disaster declarations, but have frequent large wildfires.