Rep. John Garamendi has signed on to an effort to force a vote on a bill that would allow the Obama administration to use contingency funding to fight wildfires.
Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, joined 85 of his colleagues on Friday in calling for the vote on the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. If 215 representatives sign the discharge petition, it will force a vote regardless of whether the Republican leadership wants the matter brought to the floor.
Co-authored by Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, the bill would give the administration the option of paying for fighting of wildfires like the cost of other natural disasters, like hurricanes, if costs exceed 70 percent of the 10-year average firefighting budget in a given year.
“This commonsense bipartisan legislation would enable us to better protect our communities and land from the dangerous spread of wildfires,” said Garamendi in a statement. “The historic drought in the West has turned California into a tinderbox. While these are both natural disasters, they are both within our control to effectively manage.”
Garamendi, a former deputy secretary of the interior, pointed to the Monticello Fire as an it example. By late Friday, it had charred 6,488 acres on the southeast shore of Lake Berryessa. It took more than 1,500 firefighters, 121 engines, three helicopters, 18 bulldozers and 25 water tenders to bring the blaze to 98 percent containment.
Under current law, the cost of that effort would take away from funds intended for forest management.
Reducing money that the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior have to reduce hazards increase the risk of more fires and fires of greater magnitude, Garamendi and his colleagues argue. Since 2000, the agencies have run out of money to fight fires eight times.
President Barack Obama also has requested $615 million to fight wildfires as part of a $3.7 billion spending package mainly intended to deal with a rise in child migrants.