Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., say spending to prevent wildfires saves $5 for every dollar spent and are urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to press the Federal Emergency Management Agency to focus more resources on mitigation.
In a letter to leading appropriators, Crapo and Bennet note that wildfires killed 13 people last year, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and caused an estimated $1 billion in economic damages. Already this year, 19 firefighters died in an Arizona wildfire.
The pair wrote Friday to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who chairs the Appropriations Subcommitee on Homeland Security, and the ranking Republican on the panel, Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana.
We ask you to work with FEMA to ensure that a greater share of its pre-disaster mitigation resources go to wildfire mitigation efforts. Requiring FEMA to report on its efforts to date to support wildfire mitigation projects, and its plans to support fire mitigation activities going forward, would be an important first step. And we hope to explore additional fire mitigation and preparedness options with the subcommittee, in order to prevent taxpayer dollars from being needlessly consumed in expensive fire suppression operations down the road.
The full text of a news release from Crapo is here.
Also Friday, Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador called out Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, warning that the Obama administration may play a political blame game and fault Congress for spending cuts that Vilsack says took 500 firefighters and 50 engines from the field this season. Labrador said poor forest management that allowed fuel buildup is responsible for heightened fire hazard and that fire devastation is unconnected to cuts under sequestration.
Read more here.
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