Heinrich, Luján Introduce Legislation To Help New Mexico Respond And Recover From Wildfires

U.S. SENATE News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) to introduce two bills to support efforts in New Mexico and across the country to put fires out faster and better protect communities from post-fire flooding.

The Fire Suppression Improvement Act would help ease the burden on state and local governments who are shouldering the weight of increasingly devastating wildfires by expanding FEMA’s Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) to better support the pre-deployment of assets in advance of major wildfires.

The Post Fire Flooding and Debris Flow Act would include mitigating and preventing post-wildfire flooding and debris flows as eligible under FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and allow for state and local governments to act quickly when storms are imminent to protect lives, property, and public infrastructure.

The Fire Suppression Improvement Act would ensure state and local fire suppression assets that are pre-deployed are eligible for FMAGs once granted for an incident and allow for the federal cost share of such grants to be increased beyond 75 percent. This will support fire suppression operations across the west and support efforts to ensure fires do not get out of control when they break out. After years of increasingly catastrophic wildfires in the West, it has become clear that the federal government must do more to support state and local firefighters with their initial efforts to get fires under control quickly and stave off increased spread and destruction.

The Post Fire Flooding and Debris Flow Act would ensure that mitigation work, before a storm, to prevent post-fire flooding or debris flow is explicitly eligible for FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and allow for the federal cost share of such work to be increased beyond 75 percent. This will save lives and protect communities. These events are one of the most dangerous post-fire hazards and pose a serious threat to life and property, and have the possibility to block drainage ways and damage public infrastructure.

“New Mexicans have learned all too well over the past decade that some of the hardest work to recover from these events often begins after the fires are extinguished. We are seeing the costly toll the climate crisis and these record-breaking fires are having on our communities, our forests, and our watersheds. That is why I’m working to better equip our federal firefighters and first responders for more destructive wildfire seasons and the flooding and erosion that come in their aftermath. I’m proud to introduce these bills to strengthen federal support, both before and after wildfires, to keep our communities safer and make our forests more resilient,” Heinrich said.

“As New Mexico battles the largest wildfire in state history, it’s crucial that state and local governments have the necessary tools to respond to these disasters. With fire season well underway and extreme drought touching every corner of the state, I’m proud to introduce this package alongside Sen. Padilla to help New Mexicans respond, recover, and rebuild from devastating wildfires, flooding, and other disasters,” Luján said.

Representative Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) introduced the companion to the Fire Suppression Improvement Act in the House, the Wildfire Recovery Act, and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) will introduce the Post Fire Flooding and Debris Flow Act in the House. In addition to Padilla, Heinrich, and Luján, the bills are cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

For a one pager on the Fire Suppression Improvement Act click here.

For a one pager on the Post Fire Flooding and Debris Flow Act click here.

Full text of the Fire Suppression Improvement Act and the Post Fire Flooding and Debris Flow Act can be found here and here.

LOS ALAMOS

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