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Senate hearings examine response to increasing wildfire threat

The U.S Fire Administration and the Department of Homeland Security have 148 recommendations, but their top concerns are preparing communities.
Senate hearings examine response to increasing wildfire threat
Posted at 8:27 PM, Mar 14, 2024

Wildfire mitigation and disaster recovery were at the top of the agenda as the U.S. Fire Administration and the Department of Homeland Security testified in front of lawmakers on how to properly respond to the increasing threat.

The U.S Fire Administration and Department of Homeland Security have 148 recommendations, but their top concern is preparing communities that in the past wouldn't necessarily have to deal with wildfires, and also changing how the Federal Emergency Management Agency responds to disaster recovery.

Wildfires not only devour land and buildings, but upend the lives of people as well. Officials used the Maui fires in Hawaii that devastated Lahaina last year as an example. 

Christopher Currie, the director of Homeland Security, said FEMA must plan better for how to house survivors after the disasters and the shortages the country faces.

Currie recommended that FEMA and local agencies figure out before the fires what they're going to do with survivors.

"Recently, when I was in Maui, a local official reminded me that average family home there's about a million and a half dollars," Currie said. "So, they don't have a bunch of small houses sitting around for temporary housing for survivors. And what we've seen is that wildfires are now affecting very populated areas over the last 10 years."

Lori Moore-Merrell, the U.S. fire administrator, believes more needs to be done to prevent disasters from becoming worse. 

"So, we're seeing that not only across the islands but in areas across the nation that have never burned before — Louisiana, for example," Moore-Merrell said. "And so these are areas that we have to pay attention to if we're going to build here, coupled with climate change, we've got to bring solutions pre- not post-, necessarily."

Earlier in the week lawmakers and Biden administration officials agreed that federal wildfire crews deserve a permanent raise that so far has failed to materialize. It would be their first since 2021.

SEE MORE: PacifiCorp ordered to pay Oregon wildfire victims another $42 million


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