Posted: January 30, 2022
Washington – This week, Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-05), Jim Costa (CA-16), and Joe Neguse (CO-02) led a letter alongside 11 House colleagues from impacted districts to President Joe Biden calling for a more robust strategy to identifying and responding to wildfires.
“California has experienced some of the most devastating wildfires that our country has seen in recent years, with countless homes, businesses, and livelihoods destroyed,” said Congressman Thompson. “As climate change continues to put communities throughout the West at an elevated risk for wildfires, increased action to identify and combat these destructive events is imperative. My colleagues and I know that our constituents are depending on federal action, and we implore the administration to leverage our resources and ensure an effective response to wildfires.”
“In California, we have seen the deadliest wildfires in the last two years consume more than 6 million acres,” said Congressman Costa. “During this period, major fires like the Creek Fire, Windy Fire, and KNP Complex Fire wreaked havoc on mountain communities near my district. We must adopt a whole federal government approach to prevent the next mega blaze and mitigate the risk of climate change. I urge the Biden Administration to take action to protect our lands and communities from further destruction.”
“In the face of catastrophic wildfire seasons that are turning increasingly more devastating, we need to establish a whole-of-government approach to keep our communities safe and reduce the threat of wildfire,” said Congressman Neguse, who represents Boulder County, Colorado home to the Marshall Fire which destroyed over 1,000 homes in less than 24 hours on Dec. 30th, 2021. “Across my district, communities are depending on the vital services provided by specialized crews and federal agencies to assist with wildfire suppression and recovery. I’m hopeful the Biden Administration will heed our request to bring the full force of federal support to equip our families and our communities.”
The letter calls on the Biden administration to revisit the National Fire Plan which has not been updated in more than a decade. It goes on to call for the administration to better leverage our country’s resources and ensure that the federal government, State and Tribal governments, non-profit organizations, and the private sector work together to provide a comprehensive response to wildfires.
The other signers of the letter are Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-08), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jason Crow (CO-08), and Josh Harder (CA-10).
The full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear President Biden:
Thank you for the increased attention your Administration has provided to address the wildfires western states have faced in recent years. As Representatives of communities impacted by wildfires, we are writing to urge you to respectfully consider additional steps to mitigate the potential for another catastrophic fire season.
The consequences these wildfires have dealt our communities over the last several years are like nothing we have ever seen. The threat of future wildfires is an ongoing national emergency with far-reaching implications.
The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the pending Build Back Better legislation include significant down payments toward necessary investments in wildfire mitigation and suppression. As these programs are implemented, it is vital that we re-evaluate how we are approaching wildfires.
To that end, we ask that you direct your Administration to immediately review federal government policies and approaches to wildfire suppression. We applaud U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore for understanding the gravity of the most recent fire season and directing federal firefighters to suppress every ignition as quickly as possible. However, this direction was temporary, indicating that we need a substantive and thorough review and update of federal wildfire suppression policy.
The National Fire Plan (NFP), which was developed in 2000 to provide a framework for responding to wildfires and assessing their impacts to communities, has not been updated in almost a decade. We ask that your Administration revisit the NFP with an eye toward improving interagency coordination and alignment around wildfire suppression, including decisions about initial attack, fire management and the use of specific firefighting strategies.
Based on feedback we have received from constituents and experts; we believe that such a review is urgently needed ahead of next fire season to ensure that federal firefighting agencies can keep pace in this new era of climate-driven mega blazes. For example, given the extreme drought conditions in many western states, we may need to tailor the use of backfiring or make investments to be able to fight fires on a round-the-clock basis to match the changing climate and increased public risk.
We recognize that during a crisis, the Federal government, State and Tribal governments, nonprofit organizations and the private sector are all critical partners. When we work together, we are better able to leverage our resources and maximize the effectiveness of our response.
We deeply appreciate your continued engagement on this issue and remain committed to working with you on this urgent priority.