Support bill on wildfire funding

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down requests to assist Carlton Complex wildfire victims this summer, we were shocked.

Even though there were substantial wildfire management errors along the way, it was truly a natural disaster of epic proportions for this part of the state and country.

The largest wildfire in state history, it blackened 256,108 acres and destroyed 237 homes and 53 cabins. The July 14 lightning-caused fire swept across the region quickly, displacing families, killing livestock and wildlife, and damaging orchards, crops, forest and rangeland.

With the American Red Cross, disaster-aid workers, firefighters and others pouring into the county from across the nation, we thought it was a no-brainer that FEMA would step up to the plate and go to bat for rural residents.

Boy, were we wrong.

The federal government issued a disaster declaration for public infrastructure, but rejected assistance for individual and business damage. And because FEMA rules didn’t identify wildfire as a natural disaster, the agency also wasn’t about to dedicate any mitigation finances to the area.

Himself hailing from a wildfire-prone area, Congressman Raul Ruiz, a California Democrat, has introduced a bill that would authorize FEMA to award financial mitigation assistance in the case of wildfire.

House Resolution 1009 was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The bill, dubbed the Wildfire Prevention Act of 2015, would authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to award mitigation financial assistance in certain areas affected by wildfires, even in a major disaster has not been declared.

Ruiz’s staff couldn’t comment if any mitigation assistance would be retroactive to last summer’s Carlton Complex wildfire, should the bill pass. But the measure could provide some help with the upcoming fire season. And with the lack of snowfall in the mountains, we’ll likely need it.

We encourage Congress to pass the bill.


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