The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America is throwing its support behind a bill first proposed in 2015 that would make supplemental federal funding to fight wildfires a more flexible and easy process.
A PCI lobbyist said the organization backs The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. Both House (H.R. 167) and Senate (S. 235) versions of the bill give the secretary of the Interior the flexibility to seek added congressional funding to fight wildfires.
Nat Wienecke, PCI’s senior vice president of federal government relations, referred to the proposed law as “common sense legislation” that would help the secretary of the Interior “promote public safety and potentially reduce wildlife property damage.”
“PCI and the insurance industry are acutely aware of the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as wildfires and their impact on communities across the U.S.,” Wienecke said in prepared remarks. “Property/casualty insurers help communities prepare, recover and take steps to save lives and prevent property damage.”
Wienecke added that preventing or reducing the severity of wildfires “also should be a priority for federal, state and local government as well as for the private industry.”
Wienecke said that the law would help shift away from federal funding and firefighting fire/mitigation resources that have focused on what to do after a fire starts. The better way, he said, would be a devotion to fire prevention and decreasing intensity when a fire does happen.
PCI cited statistics from the Nature Conservancy noting that more than 8.5 million acres burned in wildfires during 2015. What’s more, PCI said, more than 50 percent of the U.S. Forest Service budget was devoted to firefighting costs in 2015 versus 16 percent in 1995.
The House bill was first introduced in early 2015, and it remains in the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, according to Congress.gov. Its Senate counterpart has been read twice and referred to the Committee on the Budget as of Jan. 22, 2015, based on Congress.gov updates.