As we continue to combat historic wildfires across our state, including in the Sequoia National Forest in Tulare County, I am grateful to the federal, state, and local firefighters and first responders who are working around the clock to protect all Californians.
Most recently, I was pleased the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the Kern County Fire Department (KCFD) nearly $2.9 million (over $2.6 million in federal dollars, matched by roughly $300,000 by KCFD) to replace their nearly 20 year-old personal breathing equipment with state-of-the-art, self-contained breathing apparatus to enhance firefighter response. KCFD estimates this new equipment will lead to an increase in oxygen supply from 30 to 45 minutes. To that end, I sent Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf a letter in support of KCFD’s grant application earlier this year because it is crucial that the men and women fighting fires have advanced equipment to best protect themselves from the flames and smoke.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy meets with members of the Kern County Fire Department and Bakersfield Fire Department in his Washington, D.C. office in March of 2020.
Additionally, Congress provided $100 million in funding through the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which I supported, to help fire departments across the nation purchase personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies to protect their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kern County Fire Department received nearly $275,000 of these funds to help keep our local firefighters healthy so that they can continue to protect their fellow Californians when fighting wildfires.
In September, FEMA awarded Tulare County a Fire Management Assistance Grant or FMAG, which I support, for the SQF Fire Complex. With this award, many costs associated with fighting the SQF Fire Complex in the Sequoia National Forest will now be 75% covered by federal funds. This removes a major financial burden for Tulare County, and will ultimately help to ensure they have necessary funds to remain focused on extinguishing this fire.
Fires are also raging in other parts of California. That is why earlier this year I supported a Major Disaster Declaration request to provide critical federal funds to help Californians rebuild following these devastating fires, which President Trump expeditiously approved. But unfortunately, fires continue to burn. This is why just a week ago, I sent another letter supporting a second Major Disaster Declaration to help Californians recover from additional fires not covered in the first declaration.
Our firefighters are more important now than ever, and as they work to end these fires, I remain committed to working with local officials and the State of California to bring federal resources to our region so that our communities can swiftly recover.
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