WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to President Trump asking him to request urgently needed assistance from foreign fire agencies to help combat historic wildfires raging throughout the western United States.
The 2020 wildfire season has been one of the worst in more than two decades. According to the most recent Incident Management Situation Report from the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise, Idaho, this year's wildfires have already burned 5,864,950 acres. The fires have killed dozens of Americans, destroyed thousands of structures, and displaced thousands. Currently as many as 87 fires are still burning across 11 states, shrouding much of the western United States in toxic levels of smoke.
Firefighting experts are expressing alarm about overworked domestic fire crews and a potential decrease in the number of firefighters that will be available on the front lines in the coming months. According to a memo issued earlier this week by the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group, a council of government officials and incident commanders that helps allocate fire-fighting resources, “it is likely that resource availability will continue to be severely limited nationally through the month of September and well into the fall.”
“With wildfires burning hotter, faster, and more frequently than ever before, our overworked frontline firefighting teams need backup from our allies that have the experience and grit to help tackle these historic blazes. Firefighting crews from Australia, Canada, and Israel have already provided a big boost to efforts across the West, but more personnel are desperately needed,” the senators wrote.
According to data collected by Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), this year’s fire season has been "tens to hundreds of times more intense" than the average fire seasons from 2003 to 2019.
The full text of the letter is available below and HERE.
Dear President Trump:
Supercharged wildfires are causing untold suffering throughout the West. This year’s fires have already burned over five million acres of beloved landscape, destroyed whole communities, killed dozens of Americans, and displaced thousands of our constituents. Millions are struggling to breathe the smoky air that is smothering our population centers with the world’s worst air quality that permeates seemingly every structure and vehicle. And this fire season is nowhere near over.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this year’s challenging situation much harder. Not only do health concerns make it more difficult to provide shelter for evacuees, it has drastically reduced the number of firefighters available to combat these infernos. Even prison work crews who normally pitch in to tackle annual wildfires have been sidelined by efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
We write to ask you to use your authority under the Wildfire Suppression Assistance Act (P.L. 100-428) to request urgently needed assistance from foreign fire agencies. With wildfires burning hotter, faster, and more frequently than ever before, our overworked frontline firefighting teams need backup from our allies that have the experience and grit to help tackle these historic blazes. Firefighting crews from Australia, Canada, and Israel have already provided a big boost to efforts across the West, but more personnel are desperately needed.
Thank you for your attention and timely response to these urgent matters.