Western legislators introduce National Prescribed Fire Act of 2024

Oregon, Washington, and California legislators have reintroduced a bill poised to create a national prescribed burn collaborative program and increase the practice nationwide.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden reintroduced the National Prescribed Fire Act of 2024 [PDF] on Tuesday, three years after the act’s first attempt died in committee. Representative Kim Schrier of Washington, Representative David Valadao of California, and Senator Alex Padilla of California joined the act’s push.

The act would invest $300 million in hazardous fuels management and increase prescribed burn plans, preparations, and practices through both the USFS and DOI. The funds are required to be used to develop a prescribed burn strategy for each USFS or BLM region, implement prescribed fires on federal land, and fund an increase in prescribed burn crew staffing.

Prescribed fire, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Ogden Dunes in northwest Indiana in 2013. NPS photo.
2013 RxFire at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Ogden Dunes, northwest Indiana — NPS photo

It would also put $10 million toward the collaborative prescribed burn program based on the previous USFS Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The previous program, one of the first national efforts that encouraged collaborative landscape restoration, ran from 2009 to 2019 and focused on reducing wildfire risk, enhancing watershed health, and benefiting local rural economies. The program reported its results to Congress, saying it successfully restored 5.7 million acres of forest while creating nearly $2 billion in local labor income.

The 2024 act has the support of numerous conservation agencies and fire officials, including The Nature Conservancy, which has been conducting Rx burns in Oregon since 1983.

“Prescribed fire is an essential tool to restore and steward fire-dependent ecosystems, reduce the risk of extreme wildfire to communities, and help many of Oregon’s most iconic natural landscapes adapt in the face of climate change,” said Katie Sauerbrey, Oregon fire program director at The Nature Conservancy. “We are grateful for Senator Wyden’s leadership on the National Prescribed Fire Act — providing a pathway to accelerate the pace and scale of prescribed fire necessary to combat the wildfire crisis in the western United States.”

The bill’s full text is posted [HERE].

Oregon, Washington, and California legislators have reintroduced a bill poised to create a national prescribed burn collaborative program and increase the practice nationwide.

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4 thoughts on “Western legislators introduce National Prescribed Fire Act of 2024”

  1. A problem has existed with prescribed burning since it was first promulgated by government agencies. That problem is the likelihood of a career ending disaster when the fire escapes the prescription boundaries. Fires escape frequently and everyone involved knows this. That is a major downside at the personnel level.
    Where is the upside? Except for a mission accomplished attaboy there isn’t one. Why would a strategic thinking bureaucrat have anything to do with prescribed fires. There is much to lose and little to gain.

    1. Hey, Brian. Where are you getting your information that “fires escape frequently”? Every agency I’ve seen reports that prescribed fires escape very rarely.

      – USFS reported in 2022 that one out of every 1,000 prescribed fires escape: https://www.fs.usda.gov/inside-fs/leadership/chiefs-desk-reviewing-our-prescribed-fire-program#:~:text=Prescribed%20fire%20is%20an%20important,But%20we%20can%20always%20improve.
      – This 2020 research study says that less than 1% of prescribed fires escape: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340385562_Prescribed_Fire_Understanding_Liability_Laws_and_Risk

      Where is your data from?

    2. That’s a very common mistake, Brian — even NPR has reported this myth!* — but you are mistaken. Fires escape frequently? No, they do not.

      It actually is extremely unusual.

      Of an average of 4,500 USFS prescribed fire projects annually, 99.84 percent go according to plan. That’s slightly more than one escape per every 1,000 prescribed fires, or about six escapes per year.

      And all six of those do not get away and turn into a career-ending disaster, as you put it — they burn past the planned perimeter of the prescribed fire project and are thus officially added to the “escape” numbers.

      RxFire Numbers: Truth vs Fiction

      *That report of theirs WAS on the 1st of April, so maybe it was a prank?

  2. Prescribed fire is absolutely essential for the dependency of our ecosystems and the prevention of catastrophic wildfire, there is no question about it. Will these funds also be used to hire contracted firefighters to get the job done? In a shrinking workforce that preaches work/life balance all I continue to hear is “do more with less.” Retention and staffing are so poor that you can’t use leave or take both of your days off during fire season or modules will go unstaffed. Everyone is so burnt out by prescribed fire season, but you still can’t use leave and you should work your days off to meet forest objectives. Instead of investing money on extensive research on how carcinogens from prescribed fire cause cancer to firefighters we are aiming to expose firefighters to those carcinogens even more than ever before. Without HAZARD PAY despite how hazardous we all know it is.

    The Tim Hart Act should be the first Act passed.


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