WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 22, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement after President Barack Obama announced a Major Disaster Declaration for the record-breaking wildland fires that affected communities across Washington state.
In a phone call with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Cantwell continued to press the Administration to approve use of the Individual Assistance Program for those who lost homes during the fires. The Administration has yet to make a decision on Individual Assistance.
“The President’s Major Disaster Declaration is a critical step to helping communities across Washington state like Chelan and the Colville Reservation rebuild lost infrastructure and begin to recover from this year’s devastating wildland fires,” said Senator Cantwell. “I am dedicated to passing comprehensive reforms to wildland fire management, such as providing tools and technologies to our first responders and empowering proactive community preparedness and fire prevention. We must honor the sacrifices of those who fought fires across the West this year and be better prepared to prevent and fight these fires going forward.”
The disaster declaration triggers the release of federal funds from the Public Assistance Program for Chelan, Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Whatcom, and Yakima Counties and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. The program helps Washington state and affected counties offset the costs incurred for providing emergency protective measures and to repair and replace some disaster-damaged facilities.
Senator Cantwell has long been dedicated to finding ways to reform federal fire policies and support fire prevention and management agencies. Based in part on lessons from last year’s Carlton Complex fire, the senator has been working on comprehensive fire legislation, the Wildland Fire Management Act of 2015. In June 2015, Cantwell released a white paper, previewing concepts that may be included in the yet-to-be-released bill. In August 2015, Cantwell traveled the state of Washington in a series of roundtables and visits to hear firsthand from communities about the steps they were taking to prepare for wildland fires and which of those preventative actions worked. She also held a field hearing with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in Seattle, with experts’ testimony informing the bill. And last week, Cantwell joined Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) for a roundtable to hear from communities in Spokane on their experiences this wildland fire season. Senator Cantwell is working on a fire reform bill that will be introduced in the coming weeks.