Padilla, Lofgren Celebrate Passage of Legislation Improving Federal Wildfire Preparedness and Response with Local and State Leaders￼
SAN JOSE, CA — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) today joined Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-19), as well as local and state fire and emergency management officials, to celebrate Senate passage of their bill, the FIRE Act. The FIRE Act would update the Stafford Act that governs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to improve its wildfire preparedness and response programs by allowing FEMA to pre-deploy assets during times of highest wildfire risk and red flag warnings and by increasing equity and consistency across multiple FEMA assistance programs.
The event was attended by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, CAL FIRE Assistant Region Chief Jake Hess, CAL FIRE SCU Chief George Huang, Santa Clara County Fire Department Chief Suwanna Kerdkaew, Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director Darrell Ray, and IAFF Local 1165 President Chris Ingram.
The FIRE Act was initially born out of a roundtable conversation Padilla hosted last year where he was briefed by local leaders on the state of California’s wildfire preparedness and recovery measures. It recently passed the Senate unanimously.
“The impacts of wildfires on communities throughout California have been devastating, and more must be done to support communities faced with extreme wildfire threats,” said Senator Padilla. “The recent unanimous Senate passage of the FIRE Act was an important step forward in reforming federal wildfire preparedness and response programs. I’ll continue working to ensure this bill makes it to the President’s desk for his signature so that communities have access to the necessary resources they need to recover and rebuild after wildfires occur.”
“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 Rep. Lofgren, Chair of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation. “I joined Senator Padilla in introducing a House companion of the FIRE Act last year, along with Reps. Thompson, Huffman and Panetta, to make sure FEMA operations and policies reflect disaster-specific needs. We all encourage our colleagues in the House to join with us in pushing for passage on our side of the Capitol. Wildfire assistance should not be treated as less important than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods, and our bill would improve and bring parity to FEMA’s efforts.”
“Senator Padilla and Congresswoman Lofgren are succeeding in helping Santa Clara County stay ahead of the fire pain, the homes and lives lost and the paths of destruction large fires can cause when the wind whips up and the conditions are dry and hot because of climate change. The Fire Act will make a monumental difference in the outcome of the wildland fires,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
“This legislative bill authored by Senator Padilla is instrumental to the wildfire and climate crisis in California. Our vulnerable communities will benefit from these Federal resources before, during and post disaster,” said CAL FIRE Assistant Region Chief Jake Hess.
“Grateful for Senator Padilla’s efforts to pass the FIRE Act, which will help bolster the current partnership between state, local, and federal agencies for post recovery efforts,” said CAL FIRE SCU Chief George Huang.
“The Fire agencies within Santa Clara County pride ourselves in our cooperation and collaboration to respond to and mitigate wildfire incidents locally, regionally, and at the state level as part of the California Mutual Aid system,” said Santa Clara County Fire Department Chief Suwanna Kerdkaew. “As the Operational Area Coordinator for the County, having the ability to work with our fire agency partners to get fire resources pre-positioned during high wildfire danger periods makes more resources available and gets the resources deployed quickly with the objective to keep wildfires small. The FIRE Act offers tremendous potential to help get aid to the communities before a potentially devastating wildfire and to get aid faster post-wildfire disaster. The state and federal resources will work synergistically in an effort to minimize community loss while getting help to those directly affected by the impact of a large wildfire incident.”
“Legislative bills like the Fire Act are critical to ensure continued collaboration and use of resources at the federal, state, and local levels for the betterment of our communities,” said IAFF Local 1165 President Chris Ingram.
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’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 unanimously advanced out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Padilla also successfully advocated for California to receive billions for wildfire response and drought relief in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
A recording of Padilla’s remarks is available here.
A one-pager of the FIRE Act is available here.
A section-by-section of the FIRE Act is available here.