October 21, 2020

Congressman Neguse Publishes Wildfire Resource Guide & Legislative Report on Wildfire Mitigation and Response

Lafayette, CO - As wildfires continue to burn across the state of Colorado and the 2nd congressional district, Congressman Neguse has been working with local first responders and federal leaders to help address the needs of all Coloradans. To that end, Congressman Neguse is also releasing a Wildfire Resource Guide to provide his constituents with the information they could need while persevering through this year’s wildfire season. This Resource Guide holds information for how to prepare for an evacuation, where to find local resources, how to replace federal documents if lost and more. Find the Wildfire Resource Guide here.

Colorado’s 2nd congressional district is currently dealing with five fires. In Larimer County, the Cameron Peak fire is now the largest fire in Colorado history, having currently burned 205,004 acres. Boulder County is now dealing with the Calwood Fire, having burned 9,106 acres, as well as the Lefthand Canyon Fire. And Grand County is fighting both the East Troublesome Fire, 12,655 acres, and the William Forks Fire, 14,645 acres.

On Saturday, Congressman Neguse, who spent the weekend serving those who are being evacuated by assisting the Red Cross in passing out resources and food, announced the authorization of FEMA-funded Fire Management Assistance Grants to fight the Calwood Fire and the East Troublesome Fire. These funds were also authorized to fight the Cameron Peak Fire in September.  Congressman Neguse continues to push for additional federal resources, as detailed in the legislative summary below. 

“While these steps are a start, there is still so much work to do to support folks in Colorado’s second congressional district as they prepare and recover from the impacts of wildfire,” said Congressman Neguse. “My office stands ready to assist you. Thank you, once again, to the men and women fighting these fires for everyone’s health and safety.”

Congressman Neguse is also providing updated information and resources here.

Legislative Overview On Wildfire Mitigation and Prevention  

Wildfire mitigation and response is a year-round legislative priority for Congressman Neguse. That is why earlier this year, in March, the Congressman led an appropriations letter with House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) requesting $16 million for the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP). The JFSP is a partnership of six federal land management agencies that work to identify and address the most pressing challenges of managing wildland fuels, fires, and fire-impacted ecosystems. The program allows the Forest Service and Department of the Interior to allocate competitive funding to researchers that use applied, timely research to tackle wildfire problems, and relay helpful information to fire and land managers and policy makers. 

In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, Congressman Neguse also pushed to ensure that the health of first responders and firefighters were a top priority. The Congressman worked on a bipartisan basis with Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) to introduce the Wildfire Community Health and Response Act, requesting that the Departments of Agriculture and Interior report on what steps they are taking to lower the risk of wildfire, ensure fire personnel are given necessary PPE, and reduce transmission of COVID among first responders. Congressman Neguse also led 33 of his colleagues in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Director Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging that first responders, including firefighters, be a top priority to receive coronavirus tests.  

Congressman Neguse also advocated for the health and safety of wildfire personnel and wildfire-impacted communities in the House-passed HEROES Act. The HEROES Act directed the Labor Department to establish an emergency temporary standard to protect a wide variety of occupations, including firefighters, from COVID-19 exposure. Additionally, the HEROES Act provided $1.3 billion for FEMA, of which $500 million is dedicated to assistance to firefighter grants to be used for the purchase of PPE, mental health evaluations, training, and sanitizing their facilities and equipment.

Also in April, local fire departments were struggling to receive the proper PPE that they requested from the federal governments. In Colorado, and in states across the country, there had been reports of the federal government intercepting shipments of medical supplies ordered by local communities. Congressman Neguse led the Colorado Delegation in a letter to Vice President Pence and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, requesting they provide more transparency to states as they sought lifesaving equipment. Congressman Neguse fought to ensure that those on the front lines had access to the supplies they desperately needed.

In June, Congressman Neguse introduced the 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act, which would invest billions of dollars in forest management, conservation, and wildfire mitigation. The bill includes $4 billion in National Forest Funding to make investments in landscape-scale restoration projects to improve forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire; $600 million for the Forest Service State and Private Forestry program, including $200 million for programs such as Firewise which helps local governments plan for and reduce wildfire risks; and $100 million for land management agencies to purchase and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees. The bill also allocates $100 million for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC), which support states, tribes, and local communities as they undertake hazard mitigation projects reducing the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards. Investments in BRIC ultimately reduce the cost of responses to natural disasters, including wildfire.

Inspired by emergency management officials in the Second District who have struggled to obtain needed funds after the 2013 flooding, Congressman Neguse introduced the bipartisan Climate Resilient Communities Act earlier this year to improve disaster recovery.  In July, the Congressman successfully passed an amendment based on this legislation as a part of The Moving Forward Act. The amendment directs the Government Accountability Office to make recommendations for how FEMA can better incorporate resiliency into rebuilding after natural disasters, including wildfires.

As the House debated the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill in July, Congressman Neguse also successfully passed an amendment to add an additional $5 million in funds for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The program funds large-scale, community-driven restoration projects with the goal of reducing the risk of catastrophic fire, supporting jobs in rural communities, and enhancing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. CFLRP does a variety of work on forest restoration in Colorado, with the Front Range CFLRP project serving regions of the 2nd Congressional District. 

This October, Congressman Neguse’s amendment to study wildfire smoke and improve smoke forecasts passed the House as part of the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. That bill also addresses the threat of wildfires by investing in federal mapping of wildfire risks around utilities, data collection on the influence of building materials on structure fires, weatherization enhancement programs to cover the use of heat and fire resistant materials for vulnerable low-income households, and rebates to homeowners to defray the cost of retrofitting homes to be wildfire resistant.

Additionally in October, the Congressman sent letters alongside other members of the Colorado delegation requesting that the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work with the State of Colorado and local governments to address the Cameron Peak Fire’s threat to the region’s watersheds and water supply. At least five high mountain reservoirs in the Cache La Poudre River watershed are at risk of erosion and sedimentation damage from the fire. The letters emphasized the need to protect the water quality of communities as they recover from the fires.