Tester to introduce bill to help communities hit by wildfire | TSLN.com

Tester to introduce bill to help communities hit by wildfire

In an effort to help more Montana communities after disaster strikes, Senator Jon Tester will be introducing new bipartisan legislation that would provide hazard mitigation resources to communities trying to recover from wildfires and prevent future natural disasters.

"We have seen the catastrophic impacts of wildfires across Montana and we must do more to prevent them and reduce their devastation," Tester said. "We know that a wildfire doesn't end when the flames stop burning. This bill will provide additional resources to restore land after a wildfire sweeps through, preventing future disasters."

Tester's Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act would provide FEMA funding to communities recovering from certain major wildfires so they can take steps like building erosion barriers, restoring burned land, and improving drainage to help prevent flooding. Major wildfires leave behind barren, charred soil that is unable to absorb water from rainfall, which can dramatically increase the threat of flooding and landslides.

"I can tell you from first-hand experience how important this bill would be to our community," Jeff Gates, former Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator for Musselshell County, said. "70,000 acres of forest burned down during the 2012 fire season, destroying more than 200 buildings and leaving dozens homeless. We had very little financial assistance in the aftermath-we were relying on private donations and volunteers to get these residents back on their feet-so we certainly couldn't afford any mitigation programs. This left us in a really vulnerable position the next year, when we experienced more than a dozen flash floods and numerous mudslides in many of the same areas that had been burned to the ground the year before. So residents of Roundup know better than most how important mitigation funding is."

The Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act would also provide resources to help further reduce fuels after a wildfire.

–Senator Tester