Senate Passes Bennet Bill to Improve Wildfire Recovery Efforts

Washington, D.C. – This week, the Senate passed Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act to provide resources to assist communities recovering from damaging wildfires. Colorado communities recovering from this year’s Lake Christine Fire and Spring Creek Fire are eligible for the newly available funding.

“In Colorado, we know the enormous costs wildfires inflict on our communities,” said Bennet. “And those costs pile up even after fires are extinguished to protect against flooding and erosion. It’s time we treat wildfires like other natural disasters and provide communities—like those harmed by the Lake Christine and Spring Creek Fires—with the federal resources they need.”

Bill Background:

The Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act treats wildfires in the same manner as other natural disasters, ensuring states affected by wildfires can access the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) without receiving a major disaster declaration. HMGP funds are used to implement measures that reduce the risk of flooding and erosion and prevent future wildfires. Bennet first introduced this measure as part of the PREPARE Act in 2015, and later as a standalone bill in 2016. Bennet pressed for a two-year authorization of this authority in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to provide communities affected by fires in 2017 and 2018 access to HMGP resources. Passage of the Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act this week makes this authority permanent.

Statements of Support:

“Because of high fuel loads, warming temperatures, and development in the Wildland-Urban Interface, we are likely to see continued fires in Colorado,” said Kathy Chandler-Henry, Chair of the Board of Eagle County Commissioners. “Eagle County suffered our largest wildfire in the County's history this summer with the Lake Christine Fire.  We thank Senator Bennet for this legislation that would allow us to reduce the risk and severity of future wildfires through the use of Hazard Mitigation Assistance funds. These funds will assist counties such as ours in proactively developing fire-adapted communities.”

“As we work in our community to recover from the Spring Fire, we’re grateful to Senator Bennet for his efforts to expand Costilla County’s access to critical disaster funds and resources,” said Ben Doon, Costilla County Manager.