Last September, Senator Maria Cantwell cosponsored the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (S. 1842), a bipartisan bill that stretched across several western states. The bill includes a wildfire funding fix that would secure badly-needed funding for fire suppression and would allow funding to flow to wildfires in a manner similar to other federally declared disasters, freeing up dollars for the national forests and fire prevention.
Usually, an official disaster declaration allows federal agencies to use emergency funds to pay for response and recovery. However, the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department do not have access to these disaster funds and are forced to “fire borrow,” taking money from other accounts that fund regular programs in order to pay to put out fires. As climate changes leads to longer fire seasons, fighting wildfires becomes more expensive and funding routinely falls short.
Senator Cantwell aims to include a wildfire funding fix in any comprehensive legislation that will be considered in the Senate. She also introduced the bipartisan Wildland Fires Act of 2017, which would authorize funding for communities to protect their homes and most at-risk forests and create rural jobs. Another introduced bill, the Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act of 2017, increases firefighter safety by encouraging the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems to map wildfires in real-time. The bill would also expedite work to prevent erosion and mudslides after wildfires. //