WASHINGTON—The National Association of State Foresters is calling on Congress to introduce and pass legislation that will allow resource sharing among states and Canadian provinces for the express purpose of fighting wildfires.
“To better protect Americans from wildfire, our states need Congress to enact federal legislation to address liability concerns for Forest Fire Compact resource exchanges,” Alaska State Forester Chris Maisch told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday. “Current federal and state legislation doesn’t provide adequate liability protections to compacts so that they can freely exchange emergency response personnel and resources like firefighting aircraft. In effect, some states are unable to mobilize critical resources across compact boundaries.”
Across North America, there are eight operating Forest Fire Compacts. Each compact includes several state members, and a few even include Canadian provinces. Within each compact, wildfire fighting resources and personnel can be deployed quickly and efficiently from state-to-state to suppress wildfires. But under current legislation, compact-to-compact sharing of resources is limited.
For example, the Southern Forest Fire Compacts are reluctant to accept resources from the Northeast and Northwest Forest Fire Compacts because the latter compacts don’t have inter-compact liability protection language in their statutes. The Northwest Compact does not accept or export any resources on a compact-to-compact basis for the same reason. This lack of compact-to-compact liability protection means that half of states (and several Canadian provinces) aren’t able to share wildfire fighting resources, even in times of extreme emergency.
“The first Forest Fire Compact was established in 1949 as a way for states to share firefighting resources crucial to managing wildfires efficiently,” said Jay Farrell, NASF executive director. “NASF and the Alliance for Forest Fire Compacts are urging Congress to give these compacts a fix, allowing more life-saving resources to be deployed for wildfire response.”
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