Interior Dept official visits western cities to monitor wildfire challenges and tout federal funding
A top Interior Department official stopped in Boise Monday to hear about the upcoming fire season and tout federal funding for firefighting efforts. It’s part of a trip to several Western cities this week, including to Oregon and Washington.
Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau toured the National Interagency Fire Center and was briefed on the upcoming wildfire season. He said the outlook for this year is similar to the record-breaking 2021 season: very dry with high wildfire risks.
Beaudreau said the Interior is working to hire more wildland firefighters and transition more than 500 seasonal firefighters into permanent positions.
“This work will help support fuels management year-round when the fires aren’t burning,” he said.
Beaudreau also talked with reporters about the billions of dollars going towards wildfire resilience from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And then he talked about the move to raise minimum federal firefighter pay to $15 an hour.
“This is one area where everyone, regardless of what part of the country you come from, or what political party you associate with, is united in calling for and providing more tools and training to protect our families, our lands from the increasing threat of fire,” he said.
Much of the federal funding expires in a few years, though. So many in the fire community support more comprehensive, long-term funding, like that provided through Tim’s Act. That bill was named after Wyoming smokejumper Tim Hart who died fighting fires in New Mexico last summer.
Beaudreau said he couldn’t speak to that legislation, which stalled in the House late last year, but says the agency does support longer-term funding.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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