WASHINGTON (Gray DC) As crews continue to battle wildfires in Idaho and Colorado, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are dealing with a battle of their own. They're scrambling to pass legislation to help pay for the cost of America's worst Wildfires.
"Once again that Idaho had the largest fire in the United States. This is becoming way too common and it's all the result of mismanagement," Sen. Risch said.
They want Congress to treat wildfires as natural disasters, like hurricanes, floods and tsunamis. They've introduced a bill each year for the past three years, but it has gone no where. Sen. Crapo says Congress must act now.
“We can't go another fire year without dealing with this issue in some effective way," Crapo said.
A major reason the bill hasn't made progress is because it's competing with many others introduced in both chambers of Congress.
“It does slow down the process and the reason is because there are a number of different bills introduced on this topic, but also most of them move into other topics as well," Crapo explained.
There are other ways lawmakers here in Washington are trying to tackle the problem. Aid was included in a larger energy bill that passed in the House, but it’s not in the Senate version. When the two houses come together to work out their differences, the Idaho delegation says they’ll work to get the wildfire needs addressed in the final energy bill.
"If that doesn't work, we are going to be working at year end in the lame duck session," Crapo said.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we will get something done before the first or the year," Risch said.
The Pioneer Fire is now the ninth most expensive wildfire in the history of the Western U.S.
By Samantha-Jo Roth