To the editor: We commend Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ken Pimlott, the director of Cal Fire and California's state forester, for highlighting the increased severity of wildfires and the importance of adequately funding federal mitigation and response activities. ("Treat wildfires like other natural disasters," Feb. 18)
As the cost of fighting fires rises, the Obama administration has made it a priority to provide more funding for federal agencies that support wildfire prevention and response efforts. In fact, the president's budget proposal again asks Congress to establish a financial framework so that more of the emergency costs are built into the federal budget, similar to how the Federal Emergency Management Agency receives funding used to reimburse state, tribal and local governments for presidentially declared emergencies and disasters.
This proposal to strengthen funding for the agencies fighting fires on federal lands builds upon the already robust support FEMA provides directly to states, tribes and territories through Fire Management Assistance Grants, mitigation grant programs and disaster declarations, which have provided millions to save lives and support California wildfire survivors.
Recently, President Obama approved a major disaster declaration for the Valley and Butte fires, which provided about $11.8 million to help more than 1,500 survivors repair and rebuild their homes, and $19.8 million to communities to cover fire response costs and infrastructure repairs.
Still, more must be done. Congress should support the president's proposal to address the nation's growing wildfire suppression needs.
Craig Fugate and Ernest Mitchell, Washington
Fugate is the administrator of FEMA; Mitchell is the U.S. fire administrator.