Fairfax, Va. – Testifying before the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the IAFC asked for Congress to support programs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that address the nation’s wildland fire problem.
“Every state in the nation faces the threat of wildland fires burning through their communities. We must take comprehensive action to address this problem,” said Chief Elliott. “It will require cooperation between federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local agencies as well as the private sector and the general public.”
Chief Elliott identified several policy recommendations for Congress and the Biden Administration, including:
FEMA should streamline the reimbursement process for Stafford Act declarations and Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) to ensure fire departments are reimbursed in a timely manner.
In addition, the reimbursement process should be transparent, so that fire departments can track their reimbursements.
FEMA should use the FMAG to fund the full footprint of a wildland fire regardless of whether it crosses jurisdictional boundaries.
He also highlighted the problems faced by fire departments in obtaining equipment and maintaining staffing during the COVID-19 pandemic. He thanked Congress for funding the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) programs. The programs provide matching grants directly to local fire departments for training, equipment, and staffing, including volunteer recruitment and retention programs.
Chief Elliott concluded, “Without aggressive action, we can expect to see the severity of these fires increase as well as the cost to lives and personal property.”
Ken LaSala is the IAFC’s Director of Government Relations & Policy.