WASHINGTON, D.C. — As wildfire season rages across the West, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today urged the Senate to pass a wildfire funding fix included in new legislation to address funding for floods and other natural disasters. He joined U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in sending a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee.
A wildfire funding fix similar to the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, cosponsored by Senator Heinrich, was included in July in legislation under consideration by the Senate Banking Committee to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program.
Just like the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, the wildfire funding fix included in the new legislation would end the cycle of underfunding fire suppression that currently forces federal agencies to steal from fire prevention to fight fires.
“Over the years, we have worked to fix fire borrowing in any way we could find,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Yet year after year, fire season after fire season, the fires continue to worsen and any attempt at a fix gets snarled in Washington politics.”
“Along with the reauthorization of these flood and disaster programs, the Committee also included a provision of great interest to us – a wildfire funding fix. We write to strongly urge you to ensure this provision remains in the final bill as it is considered by the Committee and in the full Senate.”
The language included in the Senate flood mitigation bill from the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would end “fire borrowing” by funding the largest wildfires from a similar disaster account used to fund other natural disasters.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the risk of flooding after wildfires is “significantly higher” for up to five years after a wildfire. Fires increase the risk of floods and flash flooding by wiping out trees, shrubs and other plants that allow soil to absorb rainfall and snowmelt.
A copy of the letter is available here.