As I step outside of my home in Canoga Park, the smell of smoke instantly enters my lungs. A reminder of a fire 50 miles away from me, my thoughts soon shift to prayers for those affected by the Thomas Fire. But as I pray for my fellow Californians, anxiety hits me with the idea that thoughts and prayers will not suffice.
In the 1980s, wildfires burnt under 25 acres on average. As the fourth largest fire in California history, the Thomas Fire has consumed more than 252,500 acres and as hot, dry winds continue to fuel the fire, crews are struggling, yet managing, to increase containment slightly to 35 percent according to CAL FIRE. There is no denying that these California wildfires are disasters to the communities they hit.
The Thomas Fire has claimed all of these losses. These losses do not even begin to account for the tragedies experienced by other victims of this year’s fire season.
All of these fires, including the Thomas Fire, emphasize Californian’s need for additional federal resources in both the prevention and fight against wildfires. The Disaster Cap Adjustment has been a critical tool in funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior and other agencies providing emergency relief for victims of all disasters.
However, available funding in the Disaster Cap is decreasing while wildfires are becoming increasingly more frequent. Therefore, Congress needs to increase the Disaster Cap to ensure that there are adequate levels of federal funding to respond to all disasters, including tragedies such as the Thomas Fire. But more importantly, to acquire more assistance, Congress needs to pass the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.
In September, Senator Wyden (D-OR) introduced this bipartisan bill. After reading this bill, I believe that it would fix the way the federal government budgets wildfires by increasing funds to fight and prevent wildfires.
The bipartisan bill essentially amends the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. It would require specified adjustments to discretionary spending limits so as to accommodate for appropriations used for wildfire suppression operations. (Wildfire suppression operations are defined as “the emergency and unpredictable aspects of wildland firefighting including support, response, and emergency stabilization activities” (Refer to Wildfire Disaster Funding Act—Section 2 (b)(E)(i)(II))
These appropriations would go into the Wildland Fire Management accounts at the Department of Agriculture or the Department of the Interior. If either the USDA or Department of the Interior determines that supplemental appropriations are necessary for wildfire suppression operations, the bill requires that department to formally submit a request to Congress for the funding and a plan for the execution of funds.
As of December 15, this bill has been only referred to the Senate Budget Committee. It is more imperative now than ever that Californians mobilize to get momentum for this bill. With this bill, our nation’s leaders have a better chance of protecting our beautiful California forests and more importantly, it gives California all of our homes from future wildfires.
To read more the bill in its entirety, visit:
See below for a list of co-sponsors of the bill.
Co-Sponsors followed by the date they sponsored the bill
|Sen. Crapo, Mike [R-ID]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Feinstein, Dianne [D-CA]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Risch, James E. [R-ID]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Cantwell, Maria [D-WA]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Hatch, Orrin G. [R-UT]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Merkley, Jeff [D-OR]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Gardner, Cory [R-CO]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Bennet, Michael F. [D-CO]*||09/19/2017|
|Sen. Harris, Kamala D. [D-CA]||10/16/2017|
|Sen. Tester, Jon [D-MT]||10/18/2017|
|Sen. Franken, Al [D-MN]||10/30/2017|
|Sen. Klobuchar, Amy [D-MN]||11/06/2017|
|Sen. Murray, Patty [D-WA]||11/14/2017|
|Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH]||12/07/2017|
|Sen. Shaheen, Jeanne [D-NH]||12/12/2017|