USA — With firefighting resources wearing thin, legislators are pressing for new methods to fight and address funding for the blazes in California.
Last week, Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, asked the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to take emergency action to clear dead and dying trees from forest areas to prevent wildfire.
Aanestad urged the board to consider the recommendation outlined by the Tahoe Basin Fire Commission.
“The only way to prevent catastrophic wildfires is to remove the sources of fuel that are currently feeding these fires,” Aanestad told the board, Wednesday in Sacramento.
That same day in Washington, the House of Representatives passed the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act, which would establish a fund specifically for emergency wildfires.
The bill has gone on to the Senate.
The amount of money appropriated to the fund would be based on the average costs incurred to suppress emergency wild-land fires over the preceding five fiscal years.
In that period, wildfires have absorbed 48 percent of the Forest Service’s money.
Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall II, D-W.Va., told the House that wildfire trends throughout the last decade are “working toward more destruction,” and the agency must therefore be prepared in the future.”
“The FLAME Act will set us on the correct course,” Rahall said.
The Forest Service and Interior Department would also be required to submit a comprehensive strategy for fighting wildfire if the bill is passed.
Local Congressman Wally Herger, R-Chico, submitted a statement in support of the measure. He also said Congress needs to take “immediate and more substantive action” in addressing federal wildfire funds and dangerously overgrown forests.
However, large trees are the most fire resilient and shouldn’t be removed because they alter the natural dynamics of how fire burns in forests, said Jim Brobeck, a member of the Butte Environmental Council, which focuses on forestry.
Smaller trees and brush often spark the most flames, he said.
Meanwhile, Aanestad focused on financial strains of California residents at the California Forestry Board meeting.
More than just wildlife, property and evacuees are being affected by the fires, he said. Taxpayers as far as Temecula will “feel the pinch” as the $1 billion amount to fight the fires continues to swell.
Last year, Northern California residents aided in paying for fires in San Diego and San Bernardino counties, and Southern California residents will show the same support.
“It’s a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars because we could have stopped these fires before they began,” Aanestad told the board.