Congressmen LaMalfa, Panetta Introduce the Bipartisan, Bicameral Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act
(Washington, DC) – Today, Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01) and Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20) announced the introduction of the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act. This bipartisan bill will help protect the West from catastrophic wildfires by implementing wildfire prevention projects, sustaining healthier forests, and providing important energy and retrofitting assistance to businesses and residences to protect from future risks of wildfire. Original cosponsors of the legislation include Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-MT-At Large), Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Congressman Josh Harder (D-CA-10), Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA-03), Congressman TJ Cox (D-CA-21), and Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24). The Senate companion bill is being led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT).
“In Northern California, we have experienced two of the most destructive fires in California history, the Camp and Carr Fires, and many people are still struggling to recover,” said Congressman LaMalfa. “Proactively managing our forests is the best way to minimize the risk of wildfire in the West and protect our areas from further disaster. The Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act takes great steps to streamline forest management, like creating fuel breaks and three 75,000 acre wildfire risk reduction projects in the West, to make sure that our forests stay healthy and intact. I’m glad to spearhead this bill with Congressman Panetta in the House and Senators Daines and Feinstein in the Senate to refortify our forests and, in turn, increase public safety to the areas that are contending with wildfire season. Putting people to work in the forests right in our own back yard has many positive benefits.”
"Throughout the West, and especially in my district on the central coast of California, we regularly experience devastating wildfires that can result in the tragic loss of life and property, hundreds of millions of dollars in suppression costs, and prolonged power shutoffs. As the fire season becomes longer and more intense, we not only need to be prepared, but we also need to be proactive to protect our homes, towns, and communities," said Congressman Panetta. "Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation is needed now more than ever to help reduce wildfire risk in federal forests, improve best practices for addressing wildfire, and create more resilient communities and energy grids.”
- Provide new authority for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to work collaboratively with state partners in the West to implement wildfire prevention projects. Projects are restricted to areas most in need of restorative forest management.
- Allow disaster mitigation and preparedness funding to be used to reduce the wildfire risk posed by utility lines and expedite permitting for the installation of wildfire detection equipment (such as sensors, cameras, and other relevant equipment) and expand the use of satellite data to assist wildfire response.
- Create a program to incentivize the collection of woody biomass and help expand processing facilities to make biomass more economically viable.
- Create a forest workforce development program to train a new generation of workers to help address wildfire and forest health.
- Require the establishment of a fire center in the Western United States to train new firefighters and forestry professionals on the beneficial uses of prescribed fires, a far more cost-effective method of stopping fires than mechanical thinning or firefighting.
- Lift the current export ban on unprocessed timber from federal lands in the west for trees that are dead or dying, or if there is no demand in the United States. California currently has nearly 150 million dead and dying trees on thousands of acres that are at risk of wildfire.
- Expand the Energy Department’s weatherization program to allow for the retrofit of homes to make them more resilient to wildfire through the use of fire-resistant building materials and other methods.
- Establish a new grant program to assist critical facilities like hospitals and police stations become more energy efficient and better adapted to function during power shutoffs. The new program would also provide funding for the expanded use of distributed energy infrastructure, including microgrids.