Posted: November 20, 2022
Washington — Today, Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-05), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Jared Huffman (CA-02), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) alongside Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) released the following statement after the House passed the FEMA Improvement, Reform, and Efficiency (FIRE) Act.
“California remains on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and as wildfires and drought continue to threaten to our communities, we must ensure that we have the resources we need to efficiently prepare and respond to disasters,” said Rep. Thompson. “The FIRE Act will help us provide a robust response to wildfires, pre-deploy resources before potential disasters, and improve equitable disaster assistance. Proud to work with leaders such as Reps. Lofgren, Huffman, and Panetta and Senator Padilla to ensure FEMA’s disaster preparedness can fully address wildfires and the communities they impact.”
“Wildfires present a unique and increasing danger in California and across the country. Congress must ensure all federal agencies and statutes are set up in ways that best support our communities as they prepare for and respond to deadly fires,” said Rep. Lofgren. “Wildfire assistance should not be treated as less important than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods, and our bill importantly improves and brings parity to FEMA’s efforts by focusing on disaster-specific needs. Passage of this bill is part of a whole-of-government approach to better prevent and respond to destructive wildfires.”
“The FIRE Act advancing in the House today will ensure that our state and country are better equipped to prepare for and respond to the imminent threat of wildfires each year,” said Sen. Padilla. “Protecting our communities from destructive wildfires is a bipartisan issue that requires the complete coordination of all levels of the government. I thank my colleagues in Congress for understanding the importance of providing the necessary resources for our communities to face the threat of wildfires every year, and I look forward to sending the FIRE Act to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”
“Climate change is accelerating, and our policies need to keep pace so communities can withstand the worst of its impacts – like the devastating wildfires my district has been battling year after year,” said Rep. Huffman. “Today’s vote on our FIRE Act is an important step towards reaching that goal. This bill will help FEMA evolve their practices to respond faster and prioritize the needs of impacted communities and survivors, while improving partnerships with tribal governments. The climate crisis isn’t waiting, and I hope to see the Senate take this up again and get it to the President’s desk as soon as possible for the health and safety of our communities.”
“As the American West continues to endure record drought, we will continue to be threatened by catastrophic wildfires,” said Rep. Panetta. “The FIRE Act would help meet that threat by reviewing expansion of eligibility for relocation assistance to fire-prone areas and allowing FEMA to proactively deploy its resources during red flag warnings. Such critical measures will allow FEMA to provide timely, efficient, and necessary disaster preparedness that is so deserved and needed by our vulnerable communities.”
“Since the aftermath of the Tubbs fire, Santa Rosa has been working closely with FEMA and other federal partners to rebuild a more resilient community,” said Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers. “Along the way we had to overcome federal regulatory and policy issues that have added significant time and expense to our rebuilding process. Congressman Thompson’s work and leadership on the FIRE Act will ensure that federal policy must continue to adapt to meet today’s disaster mitigation and recovery needs. The FIRE Act will provide FEMA with additional flexibility to help fire impacted communities rebuild faster and in a more efficient manner.”
The FIRE Act will update the Stafford Act that governs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to improve its wildfire preparedness and response programs such as by looking at pre-deployment of assets during times of highest wildfire risk and red flag warnings and by increasing equity and consistency across multiple FEMA assistance programs. In September, the Senate passed a version of the bill, sponsored by Senator Padilla.
In 2015, the City of Santa Rosa restored Santa Rosa Fire Station No. 5. In 2017, it was completely burned to the ground. Normally in disasters, cities can utilize FEMA's relocation assistance. However, when the city went to FEMA for help rebuilding the fire station, which was essential to the safety of the community, they were told that the fire station didn't qualify for relocation assistance, because the Stafford Act specifically states that there must be demonstrated repeated damage to a structure before FEMA will release funding for rebuilding or repair. In the case of fires, it is impossible to show repeated damage. Due to FEMA being bound by the Stafford Act, they couldn't provide assistance to rebuild the fire station and the city had to work with Congressman Thompson to get funding elsewhere.
Click here to view or download full text of the House-passed FIRE Act.