WASHINGTON (KDVR) — The NCAR fire is just the latest reason one lawmaker is trying to get Congress to allocate more money to wildfire prevention.
Congressman Joe Neguse has been working on legislation to address wildfires since the end of last year. The bills have not had much movement in Congress, but he is hoping the latest wildfire outbreak will get his colleagues to work a little faster.
“We have had, just in the last 18 months, four of the most destructive fires in the history of Colorado,” said the congressman representing the state’s 2nd Congressional District.
Neguse knows the state has been through it with fires. He said Congress needs to act now on proposals that would improve responses to those fires.
“We have a bill called the Western Wildfire Support Act, which would provide cities and counties and states with the resources they need, not just to suppress the fires but again to invest in mitigation efforts, like building out defensible space and reforestation efforts in our forest.”
That bill passed committee recently. Neguse is now urging his colleagues to take it up on the floor.
There is another bill he is sponsoring along with Republican Liz Cheney that he is hoping will attract more support.
Tim’s Act was introduced by Neguse last October. It’s named after a federal wildland firefighter who lost his life after fighting a wildfire in New Mexico.
“That bill would increase compensation for federal wildland firefighters. It would ensure that they have access to healthcare and retirement benefits,” Neguse said.
Former wildland firefighter Luke Mayfield said right now, some of these firefighters are sleeping at the sites of fires because of low pay.
“Housing costs have gone up exponentially but they’re not making enough money to pay for it so they’re living out of vehicles,” Mayfield said. “It’s even difficult right now to live in government barracks because the rent is being increased due to inflation but the pay to firefighters is yet to be increased to meet inflation or to compete against state and local agencies.”
Mayfield left the field because of the challenges, but he believes this measure would give these workers the support they need.
“It has the potential to provide a liveable and plannable income that allows people to plan their lives and take care of their families,” Mayfield said.
Neguse said Tim’s Act cleared a legislative hearing, but all this week he has been asking other representatives for their support on this as they send their well-wishes to Colorado firefighters.