USA — The American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA) applauds the governors of California, Oregon and Washington for their support of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2014 (S. 1875 and H.R. 3992). That support, indicated in a letter signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown of California, Governor John A. Kitzhaber of Oregon, and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, was sent to their States Congressional delegations in an effort to fast-track the legislation.
We also want to thank Senator Wyden, Senator Crapo, Senator Risch, Congressman Simpson and Congressman Labrador for their support of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.
The bi-partisan legislation would set up a special $2.689 billion annual emergency fund to supplement the US Forest Services (USFS) annual firefighting budget.
With the governors of three of the nations most fire-ravaged states on board, coupled with the support of the Senators and Congressmen this legislation has a better chance of being enacted into law and reaching the Presidents desk, said Tom Eversole, AHSAFAs Executive Director. As an industry, we applaud their efforts on behalf of those who want to see the establishment of a more efficient funding mechanism for wildland fire suppression.
Wildland firefighting costs, Eversole noted, have been funded on the basis of a 10-year rolling average. The result is that for years, the USFS has routinely exceeded its firefighting budget, which means it has had to transfer money from other programs, such as conservation, national park maintenance, and fire prevention measures, such as forest thinning, he explained. A dedicated supplemental source of emergency funding, which would not impact other USFS programs, will create a more realistic and efficient approach to wildland fire suppression.
Eversole also pointed out that while routine wildland firefighting would continue to be underwritten by the government in the normal way, it has become apparent that the new normal is increasingly destructive fires, which are becoming a year-round occurrence throughout much of the countryespecially in the Westthanks to extreme drought conditions driven by climate change.
As wildland fires are happening more frequently, more people in the urban-wildland interface are losing their homes and businesses. AHSAFA believes that these fires are no different from an earthquake, flood, or other natural disaster, and urges Congress to provide the necessary funding to permit the USFS to continue fire suppression work, without having to divert money from other essential activities.
AHSAFA is the Washington-based trade association representing the privately operated aerial firefighting industry.