Democratic News

“Today’s hearing focuses on the preparedness of Federal agencies for the current wildfire season. So far, it has been a very active one, with major wildfires from coast-to-coast, including the destructive Trigo fire, which burned dozens of homes in New Mexico.
“All indications are that the rest of the season will again strain budgets, firefighters, and natural resources.
“During the last eight years, we have experienced an average of more than four times as many days where the agencies were at-risk of running out of fire-suppression resources than we did during the previous 10-year period.
“Last year, the agencies suffered the third highest number of such days since 1990, leaving many wildfire managers with their requests for emergency firefighting resources unfulfilled.
“These numbers indicate that our preparedness has not kept pace with the dramatic increases in fire activity that we have experienced during the last eight years.
“Nevertheless, in each of his last five budget proposals, the President has recommended cutting the wildfire preparedness budget.  In fact, if he had his way, we would be facing this summer with nearly a $100 million cut in that budget, something the Senate Appropriations Committee thankfully rejected as “simply irresponsible.
“In recent years, this Committee has considered many different aspects of wildfire management, including the pressing need for cost-containment, the impacts of global warming on wildfire behavior, fuels reduction policies, and firefighter safety.
“This year, we also are considering some of the serious human-resources challenges that our firefighters and agencies are facing.  Accordingly, we will hear today from a number of organizations that represent wildfire fighters on the second panel.
“I also would like to briefly comment on the continuing need for a global warming bill, although we never actually got to debate the bill.
“The incredible increase in fire activity we have seen clearly is associated with climate change.  As a result, we now spend billions of dollars more on wildfires than we did just 15 or 20 years ago, and we are losing more and more homes to fire as well.
“So, it seems to me that one of the most important things we need to do over the long-term to improve our wildfire preparedness, control fire suppression costs, and reduce the strain on our firefighters, communities, and natural resources; is to pass a climate change bill.  And I look forward to a much more productive effort during the next Congress and the next Administration.”
# # #