Senate unanimously passes bill to improve FEMA’s response to wildfires

The Camp Fire, November 8, 2018
The Camp Fire, November 8, 2018. NASA (Joshua Stevens) – NASA Landsat 8.

When most people think of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) what comes to mind is the assistance the agency provides before and after hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Part of their mission and the ways in which the assistance is supplied has been specified by the 1988 Stafford Act and before that, the Disaster Relief Act of 1974.

FEMA’s current procedures and requirements don’t always work for post-wildfire recovery needs, and a bill passed unanimously by the Senate Wednesday will help close some of those gaps. The FEMA Improvement, Reform, and Efficiency (FIRE) Act, S.3092, would help ensure that FEMA’s disaster preparedness and response efforts fully address the unique nature of wildfires and their impacts on communities.

If the bill is passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the President, FEMA would be able to pre-deploy resources during red flag warnings – periods of high fire danger, when catastrophic wildfires are most likely to start – just like they already do in advance of hurricane warnings.

The bill would also help ensure relocation assistance is accessible for public infrastructure in fire prone areas. It would improve FEMA’s response to wildfire-specific damage, such as repairing and mitigating contamination from damaged infrastructure.

If passed, it would have FEMA provide culturally-competent crisis counselors and case managers to ensure that underserved and disadvantaged communities receive equitable treatment when accessing federal disaster assistance. Tribal governments would be able to access financial assistance to upgrade their emergency operation centers, putting them on an equal standing with state and local governments.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “Senate unanimously passes bill to improve FEMA’s response to wildfires”

  1. I’m kind of curious about what resources FEMA “would be able to pre-deploy” Unless there are actual FEMA wildfire resources (engines, aircraft, crews, personnel) this sounds a lot like severity funding, which I guess is okay. Maybe it’ll be a little faster to get the funding, compared to severity money?

  2. Probably will depend upon State and VFD resources. Then one will find standardized equipment at the State zforestry resource level going by NWCG standards and VFDs and paid FDs who have a mix of NFPA and NWCG standards

    FEMA …im sure…doesn’t have the rolling stock for wildland firefighting….depending upon what I mentioned above and when locals elevate it to the State who, hopefully have a Governors Emergency Fund deep enough before going Stafford Act

  3. Hmmm. Not really sure what FEMA will
    bring to the table but, perhaps, they can get plugged into the logistics end? Additionally they can simply pay for the houses that the Forest Service burns down in their hasty and understaffed pursuit of it’s “10yr strategy”.

  4. It seems like FEMA always gets a blank check to operate, their salary table seems more in line with a professional series…Why are USFS &DOI fire and aviation are always scrapping for a budget?

  5. Range technician

    Because USFS and DOI might still be in the daze and belief of $1.39 100LL and 2.39 Jet A and maybe the horsepower of SES folk and research going up the Hill from Senators and Congressman lacks any aviation acumen….maybe start bring pilots and mechanics to the Hill with our suits and polos….we’ll give em more accurate costs that many here think that contractors are out to jab the Guv. We deal in pricing of parts everyday….not just “fire years or fire seasons!”

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