Biden Pays for Firefighters as a Heatwave and Wildfires Roil


With a record-breaking heat wave suffocating and drought-fed much of the Pacific Northwest Forest fire season it’s going well alreadyPresident Biden pledged Wednesday to keep federal firefighters on duty for a longer season and increase their salaries.

But he warned that the United States is years behind in developing a strategy to combat worsening fires and their underlying causes, including climate change.

“The truth is, we’re trying to catch up,” Mr. Biden said in a virtual meeting with leaders of Western states, adding that he was surprised at the lack of federal attention to firefighting details when he took office. “We must act now and act quickly.”

But many of the proposals Mr. Biden discussed — including permanent raising of federal firefighters to about $15 an hour, early satellite detection of fires and better firefighting equipment — were unlikely to be ready for the wildfire season that had already begun in some areas. West, a senior management official, admitted Wednesday that he had spoken about the condition of anonymity.

The exception would be some emergency bonuses for firefighters.

Human-induced climate change, combined with continued home construction in fire-prone areas, is making wildfires more frequent and dangerous in the United States. After President Donald J. Trump downplayed both climate change and its link to wildfiresMr. Biden has tried to show that his administration is grappling with the crisis.

Still, Mr Biden said there are several areas where he can act by executive authority, including extending the season for firefighters, so that “seasonal firefighters can stay on the job as long as they need to”. And California, devastated by fires last year, announced an immediate donation of “fire mitigation funds” to Sonoma County. Sonoma was among the first to apply for the new funding.

Mr. Biden requested a briefing on federal and state preparations for fire season, similar to what he and his predecessors often received at the start of hurricane season.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by the governors of California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and Washington.

Dazzling temperatures across the West this week have raised the alarm even further. punishing drought conditions already engulfed the region.

California, it turns out worst wildfire season record last year, poised for another summer of devastating fires, mountain snowpack and reservoir levels are already near record levels.

Fires last year have displaced many people and left without electricity, causing blackouts and forced evacuations across the region. Current heat wave left tens of thousands No electricity in Idaho, Oregon, California and Nevada on Monday.

Last week, Mr. Biden met with Federal Emergency Management Agency director Deanne Criswell to gauge the government’s readiness for extreme weather conditions. At that meeting, he promised to increase the wages of federal firefighters.

“I hadn’t realized that, I have to admit, federal firefighters are paid $13 an hour,” he said. “This will end under my rule – a ridiculously low salary to pay federal firefighters.”

In a meeting with reporters on Tuesday night, management official FEMA increase the amount of money helped communities prepare for wildfires and other disasters. But the official acknowledged that these projects are unlikely to take shape fast enough to make a difference this season.

Meghan Housewright, director of the National Fire Protection Association’s Institute for Fire and Life Safety Policy, said this work, which could involve clearing vegetation around homes and replacing roofs made of wood or other flammable materials, was both urgent and expensive. He said more federal money should be put into this business.

“This is something that is not easy for any community to do,” said Ms. Housewright.

The federal government can also step up its efforts. thin vegetation in forestsBiden administration proposed in May. But doing so will require Congress to approve more funding.

One of the most important ways to reduce the threat of forest fires to people and property is, tighten building standards and landscaping requirements and remove new development According to experts, it is one of the areas most exposed to fire.

But these approaches tendency to be controversialIt also requires the cooperation of state and local authorities, according to Kimiko Barrett, a wildfire policy expert at Headwaters Economics, a consulting group in Montana.

Still, many Western officials resist policy changes that could be interpreted as violating private property rights. “We still don’t want to be told what to do with our own home and our own land,” he said.

Dr. Barrett added that if Biden wanted to meaningfully reduce the wildfire threat facing the United States, he could give states and counties a financial incentive to limit home construction in fire-prone areas, perhaps by tying federal aid to land-use decisions. .

By contrast, he described the focus on firefighting and firefighting as a losing battle, especially as climate change worsens.

Dr. “There is an expectation that we can still get rid of wildfires by placing more firefighters in front of our house,” Barrett said. “This is an incredibly flawed, costly and fatal mistake.”


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *