Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto introduced two bills to provide sweeping support for efforts to prevent wildfires and help communities recover. Her comprehensive Western Wildfire Support Act will fund state-of-the-art firefighting equipment, create new training programs, and support recovery efforts for communities impacted by wild and rangeland fires. Her Small Business Wildfire Smoke Recovery Act will help small businesses whose operations are harmed by wildfire smoke qualify for disaster relief funding. The Senator drafted this legislation after hearing from Nevada small businesses about the impact of heavy smoke has on their revenue.
In the last 20 years, wildfires have burned more than 8.8 million acres in Nevada, and the average number of acres burned per year has doubled in that timeframe. While the Silver State experienced a wet winter, Nevada officials have warned that the 2023 fire season could be more severe than normal.
“Wildfire season is getting longer and hotter each year, and we need to make sure our communities can continue to keep people, small businesses and homes safe,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’ve led the fight in the Senate to get Nevada the resources it needs to combat wildfires, but we have more to do to comprehensively address the wildfire crisis. My legislation will ensure Nevada can prevent and combat wildfires, help communities recover after disaster strikes, and support the firefighters who put their lives on their line to protect us.”
“We appreciate Senator Cortez Masto’s continued support and commitment to providing the firefighting community with the resources it needs to protect the Lake Tahoe Basin,” said Scott Lindgren, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District Fire Chief. “This legislation will help us support essential services, from firefighting to fuels reduction and recovery efforts.”
“Wildfire has risen to crisis levels across most of the western US. This is impacting not only our landscapes and firefighting resources but communities and economic viability as well. The suite of legislation being proposed by Senator Cortez Masto will greatly assist Nevadans and Nevada’s economy in wildfire mitigation, response, and recovery,” said Kacey KC, State Forester, Nevada Division of Forestry. “It is crucial to increase the pace and scale of treatments across land ownerships to create and maintain fire resilient landscapes, homes and communities. I thank the Senator for her continued assistance in helping the interagency team in Nevada and across the US, to address this current wildfire crisis.”
“Dangerous wildfire smoke can have a real impact on small businesses like mine, especially in the summer months that we all rely on to survive the slower winter season,” said Thania Medina, owner of Thania’s Juice Bar in Incline Village. “Senator Cortez Masto’s legislation would make sure that I could qualify for relief if I’m forced to close or limit hours due to unhealthy air quality, and that peace of mind means a lot.”
The Western Wildfire Support Act 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. The bill text, a summary, and a section-by-section can be found on Cortez Masto’s website.
The Small Business Wildfire Smoke Recovery Act will amend current language under the Small Business Act (SBA) to include wildfire smoke as an eligible disaster for relief. With the inclusion, small businesses forced to closer or limit hours due to wildfire smoke and unhealthy air will qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to help them recover. The bill text can be found here.
Senator Cortez Masto secured billions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support wildfire risk reduction, including $8 billion for wildfire prevention, suppression, and restoration activities and $10 million for wildfire detection equipment. Following her work to secure and implement provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, all federal wildland firefighters, including many working throughout Nevada, will see a significant pay raise through 2023. Senators Cortez Masto has also prioritized efforts to provide federal agencies with the resources they need to hire and retain vital firefighters year round.