U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, are leading a coalition of senators to introduce the National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act.
The bill is designed to identify and invest in research and development, set up warning and forecast systems, and develop observation and sensing technologies. It is also intended to standardize data collection efforts to improve the nation’s preparedness for and response to wildfires.
In 2020, the U.S. tied its most active wildfire year on record, with 10.1 million acres burned, according to a news release.
Since the National Interagency Fire Center began compiling data in 1983, the average annual land area scorched by wildfires has more than tripled, coinciding with a steady increase in annual temperature and exacerbated by the West’s worsening drought, according to the news release.
California has seen the seven largest fires in the state’s history in the last four years.
Collectively, these devastating fires have burned more than 2.5 million acres of land and destroyed or damaged over 30,000 structures. In severe cases, wildfires have been responsible for the destruction of entire California communities.
“The National Wildland Fire Risk Reduction Program Act will allow our nation’s science agencies to leverage their vast expertise to better forecast potential fires, monitor fires once they ignite, and provide critical data to first responders,” Sen. Padilla said in a statement. “This is a commonsense approach to help us stay one step ahead of wildfires and help prevent catastrophic losses that we’ve become too familiar with during fire seasons,”
In addition to Sens. Padilla and Luján, the bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and senators from New Mexico, Washington state, Oregon and Nevada.
The full text of the bill can be found here: lujan.senate.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/National-Wildland-Fire-Risk-Reduction-Program-Act-bill.pdf.