January 15, 2021

Congressman Neguse Helps Secure Colorado Disaster Declaration Status for Wildfire Recovery

Washington D.C.—Today, the State of Colorado was approved for a disaster declaration status that will bring in needed resources for the state for wildfire recovery. In December, Congressman Joe Neguse led a letter of support, signed by the bipartisan delegation, urging swift adoption of Governor Polis’s request for the declaration. Three of the state’s five largest wildfires occurred in 2020, two of which impacted the 2nd Congressional District, represented by Congressman Neguse. The East Troublesome fire grew sixfold in size in a matter of 24 hours and is the second-largest fire in state history. The Cameron Peak fire, which began burning in August, grew to over 200,000 acres – the largest fire in Colorado history. Additionally, the Grizzley Creek fire closed I-70, one of Colorado’s major transportation corridors. These fires, in addition to the Middle Fork fire, Williams Fork fire, the Lefthand Canyon fire, and the Calwood Fire, caused thousands of Coloradans to evacuate and created significant infrastructure damage.

“Devastating wildfires have occurred across our state this wildfire season, forcing evacuations, threatening air and water quality, and destroying homes and businesses. Given the historic nature of these fires and their devastating impact on our communities, this disaster declaration is crucial to ensure that Coloradans have access to the resources they need to respond and recover quickly,” said Congressman Joe Neguse “The unprecedented nature of this emergency merits a swift and comprehensive response, which this disaster declaration status will help provide. I will continue to work with our firefighters, local and state emergency response officials to ensure our communities are equipped to recover and that we do all we can to reduce the threat of wildfires in the future.”

Background 

Wildfire mitigation and response is a year-round legislative priority for Congressman Neguse. Since taking office, he has worked to ensure Colorado’s firefighters and first responders are supported and that necessary investments are made at the federal level in wildfire resiliency and recovery efforts. In March, Congressman Neguse led an effort with Chairman Peter DeFazio requesting increased funds for the Joint Fire Science Program. In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, Congressman Neguse sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and was successful in ensuring firefighters and first responders be given priority for COVID-19 tests.

As Colorado has experienced a devastating and relentless wildfire season in 2020, Congressman Neguse has worked in close coordination with local firefighters and emergency management officials to ensure that communities in the 2nd Congressional District and across Colorado have the federal funds they need to contain these fires and recover. At the height of devastating wildfires in the 2nd district, Congressman Neguse helped secure FEMA funds for containment efforts of the CalWood, East Troublesome and Cameron Peak Fires. He recently introduced the Wildfire Recovery Act, legislation to increase the federal cost-share on Fire Assistance Grants to bring in more federal resources to local communities in the 2nd Congressional District recovering from wildfires. He also sent a letter to the Departments of Agriculture and Interior requesting an increase in late-season federal wildland resources by extending interagency hotshot contracts, and led a bipartisan effort with Congressman Garret Graves requesting supplemental resources for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP). In September, Congressman Neguse passed an amendment through the House of Representatives to collect data and coordinate research on the impacts of acute air pollution exposure from wildfires, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This summer, Congressman Neguse introduced the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps for our Health and Our Jobs Act in the House, alongside Senator Ron Wyden, which would make major investments in wildfire resiliency and mitigation efforts, as well as major investments in conservation and forest restoration. The pair also sent a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting that funds for wildfire relief and many of the programs outlined in this bill, be included in the next COVID-19 stimulus package. 

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