A long overdue recognition that victims of wildfires deserve federal disaster relief is at the heart of a bipartisan bill introduced Wednesday in Congress.
The Wildlife Prevention Act of 2015 updates guidelines the Federal Emergency Management Administration uses to release disaster relief funds.
Finally, wildfire victims who lose their homes and property to devastating forest fires would have the same resources as victims of other natural disasters to rebuild their communities, homes and lives.
Under current law, the victims of wildfires are not eligible for federal funds to mitigate for post-disaster consequences that can take the shape of flooding and mudslides, or provide funds for fire prevention measures. It has been shown that a dollar spent on mitigation can save four dollars in future disaster costs.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, and Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-California, would also make states, tribes and local communities eligible for mitigation assistance grants for up to 15 percent of the cost of suppressing a fire.
As droughts across the Western states continue, and wildfires grow in frequency and intensity, it makes imminent sense to make wildfires eligible for FEMA grants.