WASHINGTON — Today, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) and his colleagues re-introduced the Wildfire Emergency Act. The bill expands on its previous version by dedicating new funds to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, assist critical infrastructure facilities like hospitals and police stations to respond to wildfires and blackouts, and train the next generation of foresters and fire managers across the American West using the latest technology available to them to help reduce the impact and risk of wildfires.
“When every year is ‘the worst fire year on record,’ and wildfire seasons become year-long events, we have to do something real to address wildfires,” said Rep. Harder. “This bill will reduce the risk of massive blazes across our state, better protect our infrastructure when fires do happen, and make sure we train the next generation of forestry professionals and fire managers. It’s all hands on deck right now, and this is a huge step in the right direction.”
In addition to leading this bill, Rep. Harder has been dedicated to the issue of firefighter staffing and pay in the Central Valley and across California. He has pushed the US Forest Service to staff up its critically understaffed elite firefighter units and stood up for volunteer firefighters struggling to be paid for fighting fires on federal land.
More information on the Wildfire Emergency Act:
- Authorizes $250 million over 5 years for up to 10 Forest Service projects of 100,000 acres or greater to restore forests and reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire.
- Establishes a new $100 million grant program to assist critical facilities like hospitals and police stations become more energy efficient and better adapted to function during power shutoffs. The new program would also provide funding for the expanded use of distributed energy systems, including microgrids.
- Expands the Energy Department’s weatherization program to allow for the retrofit of homes to make them more resilient to wildfire through the use of fire-resistant building materials and other methods.
- Expedites permitting for the installation of wildfire detection equipment (such as sensors, cameras, and other relevant equipment) expand the use of satellite data to assist wildfire response, and allow FEMA hazard mitigation funding to be used for the installation of fire-resistant wires and infrastructure and for the undergrounding of wires.
- Establishes one or more Prescribed Fire Centers to coordinate research and training of foresters and forest managers in the Western United States in the latest methods and innovations in prescribed fire (controlled burns) practices to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic fires and improve the health of forests.
- Authorizes a new workforce development program to assist in developing a career-training pipeline for forestry and fire management workers, and establish a training center to teach foresters and fire managers in the latest methods and innovations in practices to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic fires and improve the health of forests.
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