Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the floor this afternoon in support of H.R. 5541, the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (FLAME Act), which passed by voice vote. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“Mr. Speaker, California today is fighting some of the most significant fires in terms of acres burned in our history--more than 675,000 acres.
“The fires have cost $276 million to fight, according to the state and federal reports. To date, the number of wildfires up and down the coast of California is 330. There have been 1,731 fires since June 21. Up to 20,000 firefighters are battling the blazes, many of them from neighboring states, many from far and wide across the country; some from other countries, including Mexico, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - all coming to the rescue.
“Later today, we will have a resolution offered by my colleague from California, Mr. Farr, whose district is greatly impacted by these fires - a resolution to commend our firefighters, to thank them for their service and for their sacrifice.
“But in addition to extending our sympathy to those for their losses and our appreciation to our firefighters, we have to do more.
“Today, Mr. Rahall, you have given us the opportunity to do just that. This legislation, the FLAME Act, creates an emergency federal fund dedicated solely to combating the catastrophic wildfires. This fund will help ensure that fire prevention resources are not consumed by emergency firefighting expenses.
“Others have spoken about the need for us to even go beyond this act in terms of treatment and prevention, but this act is important because this fund will prevent the soaking up of all of the other dollars that should be used for prevention but are used for extensions.
“The FLAME Act also requires the Administration to develop a cohesive wildland fire management strategy. This is very important and long overdue. We need prevention, we need treatment. A long-term strategy is needed and should include approaches to hiring and retaining experienced federal wildland firefighters. We have enormously talented people in our country, we want many of them to work in the federal government, and that's why I oppose the Administration's policy on outsourcing and other policies that undercut the federal workforce, which extend to our wildland firefighters.
“I want to commend Chairman Nick Rahall, whose leadership of the Natural Resources Committee is helping strengthen efforts to better prepare for and combat wildfires; Chairman Raul Grijalva of the Resources Committee's National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee; and Chairman Norm Dicks of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on the Interior.
“As we thank our colleagues for this much-needed legislation, we should also honor the service of the firefighters, the California Office of Emergency Services, and the National Guard for helping protect our neighbors' lives and homes in California and throughout the West.
“We also express our deepest sympathies to those who have suffered deeply personal losses as a result of these fires, particularly the families of the two firefighters who lost their lives: Robert Roland of the Anderson Valley Fire Department, a volunteer fireman who lost his life fighting a fire, and John Hermo of Oregon - he came down from Oregon to help fight the fires. He drowned while off duty, but nonetheless, here in the service of this important fight.
“This critical legislation is an opportunity to provide consistent assistance and structure for relief in these times of emergency.
“Again, we express our appreciation to the legislation's authors and our hopes that the weather and the wind will assist our brave firefighters in combating the blazes. I know we all join in saying that we hope God will bless our courageous firefighters.
“Thank you very much.”