Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has announced support for the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.
The act would allow federal agencies that fight wildland fires to treat severe fires as extraordinary costs. That would allow the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to access emergency funds similar to what FEMA is allowed to use for national disasters that exceed their budgets.
The act was introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mike Crapo of Idaho after agencies last year pretty much ran out of budgeted funding to suppress fires.
Agencies would be able to access emergency funding for the most severe fires, fires in urban areas and those that require emergency response. Reid said that would allow land managers to plan for and use their other budgets for their intended purposes such as fire prevention and restoration.
“Wildfire season is upon us and with the severe drought conditions in the western United States, we must do everything possible to prevent wildfires,” Reid said in a statement. “But once a fire has begun, it is just as vital that we avert the fire from spreading and focus on fire suppression.”
He said the legislation would treat wildfires like other natural disasters, including earthquakes and hurricanes.