Obama to Support Wildfire Funding Bill

2-24 jbo wildfireMEDFORD, Ore. – Local lawmakers are praising President Obama for supporting a House bill that could change the way wildfires are fought around the country.

The bill (H.R. 3992), backed by senators Wyden and Merkley as well as representative Walden, would allow disaster relief funds to be spent on catastrophic wildfires.

Right now that money is taken out of prevention and forest maintenance funds.

While the bill would affect national agencies, local agencies say they also rely on federal funding for preventive work.

“There’s always going to be that instability with extraordinary years, but over the long run it pays off a lot better if you have that safety valve, that cash fund that you go to,” said ODF Fire Prevention Specialist Brian Ballou.

The forest service estimates catastrophic wildfires account for about 1% of fires nationwide, but about a third of firefighting budgets. President Obama is expected to include this bill in his 2015 budget proposal.