Congress Is Pushing Fire Prevention After One Of The Most Destructive Fire Seasons Ever

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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Lawmakers pushed bills Tuesday that would emphasize land management and fire prevention ahead of the 2018 fire season.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management held a hearing Tuesday on the impact of 2017’s wildfires. GOP Chairman Lou Barletta backed two pieces of legislation that would reform emergency response investment and funnel more money toward management and prevention to lessen the amount and severity of wildfires in the West.

“The focus of the [Disaster Recovery Reform Act] and the Smart Rebuilding Act is to place emphasis on pre-disaster mitigation to help ensure that our communities are well-equipped to withstand disasters of all kinds,” Barletta said, according to The Hill.

The legislation also invests in mitigating damage from other natural disasters, as well. The U.S. hurricane season in 2017 was the most active since 2005 and the seventh most active all time since records began in 1851.

“For every $1 spent in mitigation, between $4 and $8 is saved in avoided disaster recovery costs,” according to a committee report on the Disaster Recovery Reform Act.

“Effective mitigation minimizes the potential loss of life and property from a disaster based on identifying and understanding the risks in a given area or community,” the report continues. “Mitigation can encompass a wide variety of activities, including preparation and planning, elevating or moving structures prone to flooding, and hardening structures to mitigate effects of hurricanes or earthquakes.”

In the case of wildfires, a major problem with prevention has been a system that incentivizes officials to funnel funds from prevention toward fire suppression, a process known as fire borrowing. The lack of active management has resulted in increasingly worse wildfires and caused the bill for fighting fires in 2017 to hit over $2 billion, the most expensive fire season ever, according to the Department of Agriculture.

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