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Congressman Raul Ruiz

Representing the 36th District of California

Dr. Ruiz’s Bipartisan Wildfire Prevention Act Passes House

March 1, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C.  – Today, Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-36) and Representative Jared Polis (CO-02) released the following statement after the House passed the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015.   

In unanimity the U.S House of Representatives passed Congressman Ruiz’s bipartisan Wildfire Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R. 1009), as part of the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1471).

“Our desert and mountain communities understand that the threat a wildfire poses does not end when it is extinguished. My bipartisan bill will allow our communities to secure post-fire mitigation funding to prevent dangerous mudslides and future fires,” said Dr. Ruiz. “This legislative success brings us one step closer to giving our communities the resources they need to prevent further damage following a severe wildfire. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see this pragmatic solution become law.”

“Under current law, wildfires are not considered natural disasters, which makes it impossible for communities to drawdown federal resources to control and respond to these devastating catastrophes,” said Polis. “I’m relieved to see this common-sense solution pass the House, and thankful that neighborhoods around Summit County, Boulder, and Fort Collins devastated by wildfires can now access the necessary funds they need to recover.” 

“Representative Ruiz led the way by drafting legislation to help communities mitigate the threats of landslides and floods after major wildland fires. I thank Committee Chairman Shuster; Ranking Member DeFazio; Subcommittee Chairman Barletta and Subcommittee Ranking Member Carson for their leadership in passing this important bill,” said Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, President and Chair of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

“Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council wishes to thank Dr. Ruiz for cosponsoring the Wildfire Prevention Act of 2015,” said Edwina Scott, Executive Director of Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council.

Background

Under this bill states, tribes, and local communities would be eligible to receive mitigation assistance grants for up to 15% of the total cost of fire suppression efforts. These resources are used to limit the severity of wildfires, such as post-fire flooding, and mudslides, as well as future fires. It’s estimated that every dollar spent on mitigation saves four dollars in future disaster costs.

This extra amount for mitigation is cost-shared on a 75% federal, 25% state and local basis, and comports with the formula used in the Section 404 hazard mitigation program for major disaster declarations. Some of the activities that can be carried out with this funding include:

  • Constructing straw, rock, or log dams in small tributaries to prevent flooding
  • Placing logs and other erosion barriers to catch sediment on hill slopes
  • Reducing hazardous fuels
  • Reseeding ground cover with quick-growing or native species
  • Adding drainage dips and constructing emergency spillways to keep roads and bridge from washing out during flood

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