January 07, 2022

Following Marshall Fire, Neguse Unveils Proposal to Increase FEMA Wildfire Recovery Efforts, Accelerate Distribution of Wildfire Detection Tools

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, unveiled bicameral legislation to help prevent future wildfires, fund state-of-the-art firefighting equipment and programs, and support recovery efforts for communities impacted by fires. The Western Wildfire Support Act will allow communities in Colorado and across the western U.S. to acquire the training, equipment, and funding they need to combat the increasing dangers posed by wild and rangeland fires.

The Marshall Fire which left over 1,000 homes in Boulder County destroyed or damaged last week was the most destructive fire in Colorado history. Given Hurricane winds and lack of precipitation this fall, the fire spread through neighborhoods in a matter of hours, causing over 30,000 residents to evacuate. 

“The unprecedented and terrible Marshall Fire has drawn harsh light on the life-threatening and destructive nature of wild and rangeland fires. We cannot expect our communities to bear the burden of these disasters on their own. As we endure increasingly worse wildfire seasons, it is critical for the federal government to lend a hand in stopping fires before they start, fighting them if they spread, and helping our communities fully recover after they’ve been contained,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “The Western Wildfire Support Act is the transformative legislation we need to modernize how we address wildfires and to comprehensively support communities at risk of these devastating environmental disasters.”

“Nevada and other western states have faced devastating wildfires in recent seasons, and we have to do more to protect our communities,” said Senator Cortez Masto, Senate sponsor of the legislation. “To address these fires, the West needs more resources to prevent wildfires, fight the ones that do spark, and help our landscapes recover afterwards, so they’re more resilient to fires in the future. I’ll keep working with Congressman Neguse to pass this comprehensive legislation to give Western communities the resources they need to address wildfires now and into the future.”

Neguse’s bill, the Western Wildfire Support Act is a three-pronged plan, the Act would support wildfire prevention, suppression, and recovery:

Prevention

  • Directs the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create fire management plans for federal land in Colorado and across the western U.S. These plans will include pre-fire planning, wildfire response management, and post-fire recovery.
  • Provides funding to help communities, homeowners, and businesses prepare for wildfires by increasing their defensible space, launching community cleanup efforts, and organizing wildfire prevention education programs.
  • Authorizes funds to acquire aircraft for wildfire management operations.

Suppression

  • Directs DOI and USDA to expedite the placement of wildfire detection equipment – including cameras and heat sensors – in at-risk wildfire areas.
  • Establishes a grant program to help federal, state, and local agencies acquire state-of-the-art firefighting equipment – including air-tankers and slip-on tank units.
  • Provides funding to research and develop the use of FAA-approved drones to fight wildfires.

Recovery

  • Authorizes FEMA to create online resource guides to help communities and individuals impacted by wildfires access available assistance and resources.  
  • Provides $100 million in funding to help communities impacted by wildfires conduct long-term rehabilitation projects.
  • Establishes a competition to combat the spread of wildfire-related invasive species and help preserve the pre-fire natural landscape.

Read bill text HERE.

2020 was an unprecedented wildfire season for Colorado, with over 1,000 fires burning a total of 665,454 acres of land. Communities in the Second District and across the state are still rebuilding and recovering from damage caused by fires like the Cameron Peak, East Troublesome, Calwood, and Lefthand Canyon fires. In the wake of this historic season, Congressman Neguse has tirelessly worked to bring federal resources home to recovering communities and advocate for increased support for wildland firefighters, wildfire prevention, and forest management.  

Background:

Last year, Congressman Neguse launched the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus to focus on tackling western wildfires and was elected to serve as Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, where his Restoring Our Lands and Communities Agenda prioritizes addressing the causes and impacts of wildfires. Neguse also introduced the Tim Hart Wildland Classification and Pay Parity Act to raise pay for wildland firefighters, provide essential benefits and address classification. Congressman Neguse recently secured over $5 billion for wildfire prevention and recovery in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, enacted into law in November, and has secured over $27 billion more in federal funding to restore our forests in the Build Back Better Act, which recently passed the House. 

Over a year ago, Congressman Neguse proposed the 21st Century Conservation Corps Act, a bold proposal to launch a new Climate Conservation Corps and make major investments in forest restoration, wildfire resiliency, and mitigation, which has been included in the Build Back Better Act.