Press Releases

Washington, DC – The U.S. Forest Service has received $93 million in emergency funding for fire prevention and recovery projects in California, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representative Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) announced today.

The bulk of this money will go toward fire-prevention and recovery projects in fire-ravaged Southern California, where last year’s fires inflicted damage estimated to exceed $2 billion. This funding is part of a larger $500 million national fire funding package secured late last year by Senator Feinstein and Representative Lewis.

“This is good news for California,” Senator Feinstein said. “It is a major infusion of badly needed money for Southern California, and it will go where it is needed most: Toward making our National Forests, State and private lands more fire-safe.

“Wildifires are a significant threat to California. Our state is tinder-dry, and the fire risk is made worse through drought and global warming. Fire season is longer, and wildfires burn hotter and with greater intensity. So it is vital that we move quickly to reduce the risk – including clearing the dead, downed and dying trees and shrubs that feed these fires. This Forest Service funding will do exactly that. This is a major step forward.”

“There in no doubt that the funds invested by the Forest Service in reducing the risks of forest fires in California will increase the safety of our urban-wildland interface areas, and the investment will almost certainly pay off in savings of federal expenditures down the line,” Representative Lewis said. “As we have seen with the major forest fires last year and in 2003, the cost of fighting these fires and recovering from their devastation is much higher than the dollars being spent now to prevent them.

"Fire officials were convinced that fuels reduction programs helped dramatically in cutting back on the losses from fires around Lake Arrowhead last year, and I am confident that the programs funded here will see similar positive results in the future.”

As wildfires ravaged Southern California last year, Senator Feinstein, Representative Lewis, and Representative Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) secured $500 million in emergency supplemental fire funding for wildland fire suppression, risk reduction and recovery.

The funding was sought in part to replenish the coffers of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, drained by extreme fires in many parts of the United States in 2007. In addition, the Southern California wildfires that began in October threatened to force both agencies to exhaust their fiscal 2008 funding well before the fiscal year ends.

The $500 million was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Bush on November 13. Of this total, $171 million will go to the Bureau of Land Management, and $329 million to the U.S. Forest Service.
In a recent letter to Senator Feinstein, the Forest Service reported it has received its $329 million. Of this total, $110 million will go to emergency fire suppression efforts around the United States, and $100 million will be used to repay accounts tapped to pay for firefighting efforts last year.

The remaining $119 million will go to hazardous-fuels reduction, rehabilitation of burn zones, and reconstruction of Forest Service structures damaged or destroyed by fire.
The bulk of this money -- $93 million – will be spent in California as follows:

  • $42 million for hazardous fuels reduction on Federal lands:
    • $31 million in the San Bernardino National Forest;
    • $6 million in the Angeles National Forest; and
    • $5 million in the Cleveland National Forest.
  • $26 million for hazardous fuels reduction on State and private lands:
    • $18 million to Southern California counties; and
    • $8 million to California Fire Safe Councils.
  • $14 million to reconstruct Forest Service facilities damaged by fires:
    • $13 million in the Angeles National Forest; and
    • $1 million in the San Bernardino National Forest.
  • $11 million for rehabilitation and restoration projects on Federal lands:
    • $2.8 million for the Cleveland National Forest; 
    • $2.8 million for the San Bernardino National Forest;
    • $2.2 million for Lake Tahoe;
    • $1.2 million for Plumas National Forest;
    • $1 million for Los Padres National Forest; and
    • $900,000 for the Angeles National Forest.

Last year’s Southern California wildfires, fueled by strong Santa Ana winds, swept through seven Southern California counties, leaving them disaster areas. The wildfires – which at one point spanned from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border – killed 10 people, injured 130, destroyed more than 2,000 homes, and inflicted damage estimated to exceed $2 billion.

In addition to securing emergency funding, Senator Feinstein last year introduced a legislative package designed to improve fire prevention and disaster recovery:

  • Fire Safe Community Act: Establishes incentives for communities at risk of wildfires to adopt a new model Fire Safe ordinance that will set national standards in building codes, creation of “defensible space” around homes, and reduction of hazardous fuels. It also includes new federal grants to local communities, and increases federal reimbursement of firefighting costs to participating communities;
  • Mortgage and Rental Disaster Relief Act: Re-institutes a previously discontinued FEMA program to help qualified individuals displaced by major disasters make their mortgage payments;
  • Disaster Rebuilding Assistance Act: Boosts the maximum amount FEMA may provide to qualifying households to pay for temporary housing and home rebuilding costs. FEMA currently provides roughly $28,000 in this assistance. This bill would increase this to $50,000; and
  • Matching Arson Through Criminal History (MATCH) Act: Creates a national arson registry, requiring convicted arsonists to report where they live, work, and go to school. (Companion bill to H.R. 1759, introduced by Representatives Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, and Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena.