A group of lawmakers on calling on federal agencies to step in to address California wildfire problems. Nearly two-dozen Democratic senators and representatives are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior to assist in wildfire mitigation efforts. In a letter addressed to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Interior Secretary Haaland, the group highlights the need for more wildfire assistance.
“As California and the West continue to contend with historic and destructive wildfire seasons, it has become clear that we are entering a “new normal” in which increasingly intense wildfires wreak havoc during a nearly year-round fire season,” the letter states. “Because the federal government owns 57% of the forest land in California, and climate change all but ensures an ever-expanding fire season in the years to come, we must begin to adapt our federal resources to better align with needs on the ground.”
The letter highlights California wildfire problems by detailing the impact that wildfires had in 2020. Last year there were nearly 10,000 wildfires which resulted in 33 fatalities and the destruction of nearly 10,500 homes. A record-setting 4.25 million acres were burned in 2020, which is more than four percent of the land in California. Last year also saw the first “gigafire” in the state, with the August Complex fire burning more than one million acres. The increased severity of wildfires over the past several years has prompted lawmakers to seek federal assistance in addressing the issue.
“Transitioning to a larger, full-time workforce would add immediate capacity to fight wildfires and conduct prevention work nationwide, allow for greater flexibility in shifting personnel between regions when needed, support increased staff capacity to perform actions outside of the fire season that reduce fire risk, provide more stable work opportunities and employee benefits, increase employee retention, and reduce agency costs and burdens associated with the seasonal hiring process,” the letter explains.