Communities to receive $197 million in federal funding for wildfire preparation
The Biden Administration approved nearly $200 million in federal funding to help communities, including those in the Northwest, prepare for wildfires this summer.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who announced the funding, said the best time to fight a fire is before it starts.
“For years, our nation has primarily invested primarily in wildfire response, putting fires out after they start,” she said in a press conference with White House officials Monday. “But to meet this moment, how about if we expand our focus to invest not just in response, but in prevention?”
Prevention is coming in the form of $197 million to 100 communities as part of the Community Wildfire Defense Grant Program, Harris said.
Resources can be used for community education, evacuation planning and fuels reduction.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said increasing development in the wildland urban interface, combined with years of excluding natural fire from the ecosystem, has led to year-round fires, increasing in size and destruction.
“These investments will assist local communities, especially low-income and tribal communities, to develop a community wildfire protection plan. And this will be a roadmap to lowering wildfire risk,” Vilsack said.
In Washington state, funded proposals from the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program include nearly $3 million for strategic fuel breaks and wildfire risk mitigation work in the southwestern corner of the Yakama Reservation.
Funding awards have been distributed to Spokane County and Fire Department, Lincoln County Conservation District, Chelan County Natural Resource Department and the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
Hundreds of miles of hazardous fuels reduction will be funded in Oregon, along with brush removal programs for neighborhoods and land with Klamath Watershed Partnership and Chiloquin Fire and Rescue.
In Idaho, $193,844 will fund outreach and education for fuel reduction projects.
The funding was established as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Harris said.
“These grants that we’re announcing today are the first of many,” she said.
The remaining approximately $800 million will be released over the next four years, Harris said.
She called these initial grants a down payment.
“More needs to be done,” she said.