February 16, 2021

Neguse, Curtis Launch Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, Introduce Legislation to Help Communities Recover From Devastating 2020 Wildfire Season

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Congressman John Curtis (R-UT), launched the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, a new congressional caucus which seeks to elevate awareness and bipartisan consensus around wildfire management and mitigation, and wildfire preparedness and recovery. Notably, the caucus will require that members join in equal bipartisan numbers, and will serve as a useful tool for facilitating conversations and cultivating solutions for communities facing wildfire. 

The roster of caucus members currently includes: Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Blake Moore (R-UT), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Chris Stewart (R-UT); and additional members will be required to join in equal bipartisan numbers. 

As their first joint action co-chairing the bipartisan wildfire caucus, Congressman Neguse and Congressman Curtis today introduced bipartisan legislation to help communities recover from the devastating 2020 wildfire season. The Wildfire Recovery Act would increase flexibility in the federal cost share for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) to bring in additional resources for communities as they rebuild from wildfire damage. 

“In Colorado and across the west, our communities are facing unprecedented devastation from more frequent and more intense wildfires. In the wake of Colorado’s record-breaking wildfire season this year, I’ve joined with Congressman Curtis to launch a bipartisan wildfire caucus in Congress to ensure that we are working collaboratively on solutions to suppress these fires, and equip our communities in their wake.” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Today, I’m proud to introduce the Wildfire Recovery Act, bipartisan legislation alongside Congressman Curtis to help communities in the 2nd district and throughout the west recover from this year’s devastating wildfire season. In the coming months, the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus will continue to build on this bipartisan collaboration and ensure in the 117th Congress and beyond, Congress is prioritizing the needs of our local fire crews, our western communities, and fire mitigation and recovery efforts.”

“Many of Utah’s most fire-prone communities face significant roadblocks when attempting to access disaster relief funds following a wildfire because FEMA lacks the flexibility that they need to quickly start recovery projects and guard against future disasters,” said Congressman John Curtis. “I am proud to partner with my friend and Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus co-chair, Congressman Neguse, to introduce the Wildfire Recovery Act which will provide the needed flexibility to FEMA to get funding and recovery assistance on the ground as quickly as possible. I look forward to continuing to advance meaningful bipartisan wildfire-related legislation and am proud to have co-founded the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus to do just that with a group of members who understand the impacts of wildfires back home and are equally committed to finding solutions.”

Representatives Neguse and Curtis have worked together throughout the 116th Congress to address wildfires in the West. In 2019, together they introduced the Study on Improving Lands (SOIL) Act which evaluates the effects of wildfire and land use practices on the ability of soil to sequester carbon. Last April, they introduced the Wildfire and Community Health Response Act of 2020 aimed at supporting the health of firefighters and mitigating the impact of wildfires on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus will: 

  • Advocate for wildfire-related programs, including funding for disaster relief, prevention, and mitigation;
  • Share federal relief programs and resources with communities before, during and after wildfire season; and
  • Highlight balanced and bipartisan science-based wildfire management and mitigation proposals in Congress.

Background

As Colorado 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 have the federal funds they need to contain these fires and recover. Congressman Neguse helped secure FEMA funds for containment efforts of the CalWood, East Troublesome and Cameron Peak Fires. Recently, Congressman Neguse helped secure a disaster declaration designation for Colorado’s wildfires to bring in more resources for the state, already the Small Business Administration has announced support for businesses in Grand and Larimer County due to the designation

Congressman Neguse has also advocated for better pay, benefits and safety measures to support Colorado firefighters. In April 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, Congressman Neguse was successful in ensuring firefighters and first responders be given priority for COVID-19 tests. Last 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 comprehensive COVID-19 stimulus package. 

Support for the Wildfire Recovery Act

“I’ve seen firsthand how devastating wildfires can be to communities, businesses, and families. Rep. Neguse continues to fight for Colorado and I was proud he joined me when we met with victims and families devastated by Colorado’s climate and drought-induced wildfires,” said Governor Jared Polis. “This legislation would drastically improve the ability of state and local governments to respond to these disasters and speed up the recovery process.”

“Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme wildfires in our community and countless others,” said Deb Gardner, Former Chair of the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners. “Recovering from these events is costly, and the federal government is an essential partner in that process. This legislation will give FEMA the flexibility to provide communities that have been especially hard-hit with the resources they need to fully recover.”

“This bill would greatly assist local governments that experience catastrophic wildfires by better aligning the FMAG program with other FEMA assistance programs, and by supporting small communities with limited resources,” said Lori Hodges, Director of the Office of Emergency Management for Larimer County. 

“This bill is exactly what Grand County needs. Rural Colorado Counties with relatively large scale disasters cannot afford the old 25% cost share. Grand County lost over 500 structures.  Debris removal alone may cost over $20 Million.  25% of $20 million is $5 million.  Grand County's total annual budget is less than $50 Million, and our budget is tight. ” said Richard Cimino, Grand County Commissioner. “Joe Neguse's bill will make it possible for rural Colorado Counties to help their citizens recover from natural disasters.”

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