Sens. Cruz, Cantwell Introduce Legislation to Better Prevent, Forecast, and Fight Wildfires


Better forecasting and preparation for such disasters will greatly reduce the damage from fires in the future, helping to protect Texans’ homes and the livelihoods of many farmers and ranchers across the state.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce Committee and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chairwoman on the Senate Commerce Committee, recently introduced the Fire Ready Nation Act, bipartisan legislation that will help emergency managers and firefighters better predict, respond to, and prepare for wildfires. The bill makes several reforms to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as deploy more federal meteorologists to wildfire frontlines so that responders can incorporate more accurate and timely forecast information into their response plans.

Upon introduction, Sen. Cruz said, “Texans have seen devastating wildfires consume hundreds of thousands of acres across the Lone Star State, particularly in the panhandle. Better forecasting and preparation for such disasters will greatly reduce the damage from fires in the future, helping to protect Texans’ homes and the livelihoods of many farmers and ranchers across the state. I am grateful to partner with Chairwoman Cantwell on this critical legislation to help keep Texans safe and deadly wildfires under control.”   

BACKGROUND
This year alone, 170 wildfires have consumed 1.25 million acres in Texas, destroying ranches, killing thousands of cattle, and forcing evacuations. In the panhandle, the Smokehouse Creek fire alone scorched almost 1.1 million acres, setting the record for the largest wildfire in Texas history. Dry, hot, and windy weather combined with dried-out vegetation increased the speed and severity of the wildfires that hit the Texas Panhandle earlier this year, making it more difficult for Texans to respond to the swift-moving flames.

To help address these challenging wildfires, the Fire Ready Nation Act would:
  • Establish a fire weather services program within NOAA to provide products and services that improve wildfire risk communications and forecasts, which would help Texans understand where the greatest risks of fire is so that they can evacuate and protect farms and livestock.
  •  Create a fire weather testbed to test new fire hazard technologies, including the use of uncrewed systems, so that current fire behavior and location can be updated more frequently.
  • Require NOAA to conduct post-fire weather surveys and assessments to identify gaps and recommendations to improve future forecasts, so that NOAA can improve fire forecasts for areas like the Texas Panhandle, which experiences faster moving grassland wildfires.
  • Codify the Incident Meteorologist Service, which deploys forecasters to help firefighters understand weather patterns affecting wildfires, including the Smokehouse Creek Fires.
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06.13.2024

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