Padilla Bill to Improve Federal Wildfire Preparedness and Response Passes House
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla’s (D-Calif.) bill to strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) wildfire preparedness and response efforts, the FIRE Act, passed out of the House of Representatives. After initially passing the Senate unanimously in September, the legislation now moves back to the Senate for a final vote. The House version of the FIRE Act is led by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).
The FIRE Act will update the Stafford Act that governs FEMA—which was written when the agency primarily focused on hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. It will improve FEMA’s response to wildfires by accounting for unique damages like melted infrastructure and burned debris as well as begin allowing FEMA to pre-deploy assets during times of highest wildfire risk, like red flag warnings. Padilla’s FIRE Act will also improve FEMA’s counseling and case management services for disadvantaged communities, help to ensure relocation assistance is more accessible for public infrastructure in fire prone communities, ensure equal access to assistance for Tribal communities and Tribal governments, and examine ways to speed up the federal assistance process.
“The FIRE Act advancing in the House today will ensure that our state and country are better equipped to prepare for and respond to the imminent threat of wildfires each year,” said Senator Padilla. “Protecting our communities from destructive wildfires is a bipartisan issue that requires the complete coordination of all levels of the government. I thank my colleagues in Congress for understanding the importance of providing the necessary resources for our communities to face the threat of wildfires every year, and I look forward to sending the FIRE Act to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”
“Wildfires present a unique and increasing danger in California and across the country. Congress must ensure all federal agencies and statutes are set up in ways that best support our communities as they prepare for and respond to deadly fires,” said Representative Lofgren. “Wildfire assistance should not be treated as less important than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods, and our bill importantly improves and brings parity to FEMA’s efforts by focusing on disaster-specific needs. Passage of this bill is part of a whole-of-government approach to better prevent and respond to destructive wildfires.”
Since taking office, Padilla has made improving the federal response to wildfires one of his top priorities. He introduced a package of bills aimed at ensuring California has the federal resources it needs to protect communities impacted by wildfire smoke and is leading legislation aimed at battling wildfires, protecting workers, and helping combat the effects of wildfire smoke. Padilla also successfully advocated for California to receive billions for wildfire response and drought relief in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Padilla’s Fire Suppression Improvement Act, a bill to help ease the burden on state and local governments who are shouldering the weight of increasingly devastating wildfires was also unanimously advanced out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
A one-pager of the FIRE Act can be found here.
A section-by-section of the bill can be found here.