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U.S. wildfire response modernization bill introduced

June 12, 2024

Comprehensive wildfire safety bill proposed

Reps. Josh Harder (CA-9), Scott Franklin (FL-18), and Joe Neguse (CO-2) have introduced a bill aimed at modernizing the United States’ approach to combating the wildfire crisis.

This bill, named the Modernizing Wildfire Safety and Prevention Act, is described as a first-of-its-kind comprehensive package that addresses multiple aspects of wildfire prevention and response.

The bill focuses on four main areas:

  1. It aims to combat firefighter shortages by establishing a new Middle Fire Leaders Academy and grant programs to train and hire more firefighters.
  2. Additionally, it seeks to retain expert wildland firefighters by improving their benefits and working conditions.
  3. The bill also proposes the use of updated technology, such as developing risk maps and establishing the Joint Office of Fire Environment Center, to improve fire response times.
  4. Lastly, it addresses the public health crisis caused by wildfire smoke by establishing a nationwide real-time air quality monitoring and alert system.

Bipartisan support and personal testimonies

Representative Josh Harder emphasized the urgent need for this bill, stating: “Last week a wildfire came within a mile of my home.

“More than 14,000 acres burned and 400 firefighters risked their lives to contain it.

“We no longer have a wildfire season in California – it’s a year-round crisis. We cannot wait another day to tackle this threat.” He expressed confidence in the bipartisan support for the bill.

Congressman Scott Franklin also voiced his support, noting his personal connection as a father of a wildland firefighter: “As a father of a wildland firefighter, I’m pleased to join Reps.

Harder and Neguse to modernize and innovate our approach to wildfire management.” Franklin highlighted the bill’s focus on investing in new wildfire mitigation technologies and providing permanent solutions to workforce challenges.

Additional legislative support

House Assistant Minority Leader Joe Neguse also commended the bill, saying: “From Colorado to California, wildfires have become a pervasive issue across the West – and with these disasters taking place year round, it’s time for a bold approach to equip our communities with the tools they need to mitigate against the impacts of these fires.”

Rep. Mike Thompson emphasized the increasing severity of wildfire seasons: “We’re in a wildfire crisis and each year our fire seasons only intensify.

“This legislation is an opportunity to address the impacts of these blazes head-on.”

He expressed pride in joining Rep. Harder and other colleagues in supporting this critical bill.

Background and further legislative details

The Modernizing Wildfire Safety and Prevention Act was developed in response to recommendations from the independent Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission’s 148-page report.

The bill has garnered support from other original co-sponsors, including Reps. Greg Stanton (AZ-4), Mike Thompson (CA-4), John Garamendi (CA-8), and Val Hoyle (OR-4).

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