WASHINGTON, D.C.—This week Representatives Greg Stanton of Arizona and Doug LaMalfa of California introduced the Wildfire Response Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation to that would allow the federal government to better respond to the challenges of worsening wildfires in the American West.

Today, federal support for fighting wildfires ends as soon as the fire is extinguished. But post-fire risks are immense: burn scars from the blazes can lead to life-threatening mudslides and flooding, which create serious public safety risks and can cause significant property damage. Currently, state and local governments must bear the entire cost of post-fire expenses.

Stanton and LaMalfa’s bill directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update its regulations and guidance for the Fire Management Assistance Grant, Public Assistance, and mitigation programs to better respond to the unique challenges of wildfires and improve wildfire mitigation—including debris removal, emergency protective measures and impacts to drinking water resources. The bill would also improve FEMA’s benefit cost analysis for wildfire mitigation projects to help them be more competitive for federal funding.

“As we enter another dangerous fire season under historic drought conditions, it’s more important than ever that the federal government supports our communities as they respond to and recover from disasters,” Stanton said. 

“Nor Cal is no stranger to devastating wildfires. Many towns, businesses, and residents are still struggling to rebuild and recover from wildfires that happened years ago. I’m pleased to work with Congressman Stanton on this bipartisan bill to improve the recovery process and help those impacted rebuild,” LaMalfa said. 

The bill has already earned support from state and federal policymakers and emergency management professionals.

“SRP applauds Congressman Stanton and Congressman LaMalfa for introducing bipartisan legislation that updates FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Program to better address pre -and post-wildfire mitigation efforts. The Wildfire Response Improvement Act highlights the importance of protecting reliable water supplies from devastating wildfire impacts through the use of natural infrastructure and vegetation management. This bill could provide additional protections to the Salt, Verde, and East Clear Watersheds that provide sustainable water supplies to SRP customers,” Salt River Project GM & CEO Jim Pratt said.

“I am grateful that Congressman Stanton introduced the Wildfire Response Improvement Act. Several months ago, he asked me how we could improve wildfire response. We offered solutions and he listened carefully. This critical bill was the result of those important conversations that will finally allow wildfire and post-wildfire events to receive a federal disaster declaration and assistance. Congressman Stanton has proven himself to once again be a champion for our community and we thank him for his leadership on this issue,” Flagstaff Mayor Becky Daggett said. 

“I applaud Congressman Stanton for introducing the Wildfire Response Improvement Act.  This critical legislation will once and for all allow wildfires to qualify for FEMA disaster relief funding.  Wildfires have decimated our County and this important bill will allow us to access resources that our County desperately needs to recover from tragic wildfire and post-wildfire events,” Coconino County Board Chairman Jeronimo Vasquez said. 

“The International Association of Emergency Managers is grateful for the leadership and steadfast support of Representatives LaMalfa and Stanton as well as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the introduction of the Wildfire Response Improvement Act,” Mary Jo Flynn-Nevins, Vice Chair of the IAEM Government Affairs Committee said. “Pacific, west and southwest states have seen tremendous impacts and catastrophic loss from wildfires over the years.  The opportunity to update FEMA’s policies and programs such as the Fire Management Assistance Grant, the Public Assistance guidance, and the Benefit Cost Analysis process promises to provide more equitable response and recovery to other disasters, directly benefiting local communities.”

“The National Emergency Management Association applauds the leadership of Representatives LaMalfa and Stanton as well as the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in introducing and taking action on the Wildfire Response Improvement Act.  This opportunity to update FEMA’s policies and procedures will fundamentally change how we address wildfires and more appropriately address the continually emerging risk of these events.  Updates to the Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) program, the Public Assistance guidance, and Benefit Cost Analysis process will bring wildfires on par with other disasters and level the playing field for state and local responders,” NEMA President Russel Strickland said.

“BuildStrong America applauds Representatives Stanton and LaMalfa for introducing the Wildfire Response Improvement Act and acknowledging the necessity of tackling the unique challenges presented by wildfires within FEMA programs. This legislation marks a pivotal move in rectifying the current imbalance in addressing the disparate impacts of wildfire, ranging from debris removal to emergency protective measures, to the repercussions on water infrastructure. Providing specialized support in a bipartisan manner strengthens our capacity to safeguard our communities and essential resources,” Dr. Natalie Enclade, Executive Director of BuildStrong America, said. BuildStrong is the preeminent organization driving the national policy discussion on how to increase investments in mitigation to draw down disaster costs and losses.