Friday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and 14 other Western Democrats and committee leaders in asking President Trump to provide additional federal assistance to improve the response to the wildfires and assist the states, Tribes, and communities grappling with fires and their aftermath.
“We need to work together to fight these fires now, support communities in the aftermath, and later work to prevent future devastation by building more resilient communities, restoring healthy forests and altering the climate change-driven conditions that have led to this catastrophe,” the senators wrote in a letter to President Trump. “In meeting the immediate challenge of the fires that are already burning, we appreciate how the federal government has responded so far: federal firefighters are risking their lives to save life and property, and disaster response officials are working day and night to assist families who have lost everything. But, we can do more.”
In their letter, the senators requested that the President:
- Quickly increase the number of fire personnel and equipment to build out capacity to respond to wildfires now;
- Ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use its existing authorities to break down unnecessary barriers to assistance for all communities, especially those in rural or disadvantaged areas impacted by wildfire; and
- Ensure FEMA is responsive to Governors’ and Tribal leaders’ requests to adjust cost-share requirements that can hinder relief efforts in over-burdened states and Tribes.
Senator Cantwell has been a congressional leader on wildfire management for years and has forcefully pushed for more assistance to Washington state for this year’s devastating fire season. Last week, Cantwell introduced legislation to support pre-fire season controlled burns, and wrote a bipartisan letter to President Trump requesting that he ask for international firefighting assistance to battle fires across the West, also raising the issue on the Senate floor. Cantwell also joined a letter to congressional leaders requesting increased funding for wildfire response and recovery in any upcoming spending package, as well as a disaster supplemental federal relief package.
In December 2019, Cantwell worked with her colleagues to secure a $1.6 billion increase in funding for wildland management in December 2019. In 2018 she secured passage of language to fix the chronic failures in wildfire funding that had long plagued fire-prone communities across the west. Earlier this year, she pressed witnesses at a hearing about wildfire season preparations and rolling out new technologies. She has also repeatedly called on officials to make combating wildfires and protecting firefighters a top priority, including as preparations for the 2020 wildfire season continue amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Cantwell, Wyden, and Merkley, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Gary Peters (D-MI), and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Tom Udall (D-NM).
The full text of the letter can be found below and HERE.