July 22, 2021

Cortez Masto Introduces Comprehensive Legislation to Prevent and Detect Wildfires, Support Fire Recovery Efforts

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today introduced sweeping legislation to help prevent wildfires, fund state-of-the-art firefighting equipment and programs, and support recovery efforts for communities impacted by fires. The comprehensive Western Wildfire Support Act will allow communities in Nevada and across the western U.S. acquire the training, equipment, and funding they need to combat the increasing dangers posed by wild and rangeland fires.

In 2020, over 800 wildfires burned throughout Nevada alone, and this year there are currently more than 80 fires burning through 1,157,976 acres in 13 western states.

“Wildfires present an existential crisis for communities and small businesses across the West, and Nevadans cannot wait any longer for action on the federal level,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m proposing landmark legislation to revolutionize the way that we address these natural disasters, which get worse and worse every year due to the climate crisis. Only by taking a comprehensive approach through fire prevention, suppression, and recovery can we truly combat increasingly dangerous fire seasons and invest in the future of fire-resilient communities.”

“The Western Wildfire Support Act is great for Nevada,” said Kacey KC, Nevada State Fire Warden and Administrator of the Nevada Division of Forestry. “With severe drought and other climate change impacts exacerbating the frequency and intensity of wildfires all across the west, we must do more than ever to maintain healthy forests and rangelands while creating wildfire-resilient communities throughout Nevada. I thank Senator Cortez Masto for being a leader on this important issue and look forward to helping her advance this critical legislation to ensure our firefighters and conservation crews have the resources they need to protect Nevada families, communities, and our one-of-kind natural ecosystems natural from wildfires in the years ahead.”

“Combating the increasingly dangerous wildfires is going to take a collaborative approach, and Senator Cortez Masto has been a leader in this area,” said Reno Fire Chief Dave Cochran. “Our firefighters across the country need a tremendous number of resources to address this crisis, and the Western Wildfire Support Act’s focus on prevention, suppression, and recovery represents an extremely important step forward”.

The Western Wildfire Support Act (S.2404) will provide at-risk communities across the western United States with additional resources to help prevent wildfires before they start, combat those that do spark, and help communities touched by wildfire recover and restore their surrounding landscapes. Last week, Cortez Masto secured almost $3.5 billion in funding for provisions included in this legislation in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s infrastructure package.

Specifically, the Western Wildfire Support Act is focused on:

  • Prevention
    • Directs the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create fire management plans for federal land in Nevada and across the western U.S. These plans will include pre-fire planning, wildfire response management, and post-fire recovery.
    • Provides funding to help communities, homeowners, and businesses prepare for wildfires by increasing their defensible space, launching community cleanup efforts, and organizing wildfire prevention education programs.
    • Authorizes funds to acquire aircraft for wildfire management operations.
  • Suppression
    • Directs DOI and USDA to expedite the placement of wildfire detection equipment – including cameras and heat sensors – in at-risk wildfire areas.
      • This provision was recently awarded $10 million in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s infrastructure legislation, and it builds upon the success of the ALERTWildfire camera network that originated in Lake Tahoe.
    • Establishes a grant program to help federal, state, and local agencies acquire state-of-the-art firefighting equipment – including air-tankers and slip-on tank units.
    • Provides funding to research and develop the use of FAA-approved drones to fight wildfires.
    • Includes a bipartisan provision to stop unauthorized drones from interfering with fire-fighting efforts.
  • Recovery
    • Authorizes FEMA to create online resource guides to help communities and individuals impacted by wildfires access available assistance and resources.  
    • Provides $100 million in funding to help communities impacted by wildfires conduct long-term rehabilitation projects.
    • Establishes a competition to combat the spread of wildfire-related invasive species and help preserve the pre-fire natural landscape.

The bill text, a summary document, and a section-by-section can be found on Cortez Masto’s website.

Senator Cortez Masto has been a strong advocate for policies to prevent wildfires and to help Nevadans who have been impacted by them. She has repeatedly called for the federal government to do more to support Western states affected by fire. In 2018, she worked to pass legislation to fix the problematic practice of fire-borrowing (taking money from other land management accounts to pay for wildfire services). She has hosted regular conversations to help coordinate to respond to wildfires, including a first-of-its kind wildfire summit in 2019 to allow firefighters, ranchers, conservationists, scientists, power companies, and representatives of government agencies to find new ways to coordinate and collaborate. 

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