Prompted by the devastating Marshall fire, which destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Boulder County last week, Rep. Joe Neguse will introduce legislation in the U.S. House Friday designed to stop wildfires before they start, better fight them when they break out and provide comprehensive recovery aid to those impacted.
The bill, dubbed the Western Wildfire Support Act, was introduced in the Senate over the summer but its House unveiling was accelerated by the destruction seen across Superior and Louisville on Dec. 30.
“The unprecedented and terrible Marshall fire has drawn harsh light on the life-threatening and destructive nature of wild and rangeland fires,” said Neguse, who represents Boulder County in Congress. “We cannot expect our communities to bear the burden of these disasters on their own.”
He called the Western Wildfire Support Act the “transformative legislation we need to modernize how we address wildfires.” The proposed law comes with three basic parts: prevention, suppression and recovery.
The bill would direct the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture to create fire management plans on federal land and would provide money to communities, homeowners, and businesses to create defensible space and enact wildfire prevention education programs.
On the suppression side, the bill would speed up the installation of wildfire detection equipment, including cameras and heat sensors in at-risk wildfire areas. It would also establish a grant program to help government agencies acquire the latest firefighting equipment, including air-tankers and slip-on tank units, while exploring the use of drones to fight fires.
Lastly, the Western Wildfire Support Act would authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create online guides to help communities and individuals impacted by wildfires access assistance and resources. The bill would also funnel $100 million to communities to conduct long-term rehabilitation projects.
Neguse has been a loud voice on wildfire prevention following Colorado’s devastating 2020 wildfire season, during which the state’s three largest wildfires ever burned across nearly 550,000 acres. He launched the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus in Congress to focus on tackling western wildfires.
He is expected to join President Biden in Boulder County Friday on a tour of the destruction.
“As we endure increasingly worse wildfire seasons, it is critical for the federal government to lend a hand in stopping fires before they start, fighting them if they spread, and helping our communities fully recover after they’ve been contained,” Neguse said.
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