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Sen. Romney calls on federal government to update country’s response to wildfires

(Sen. Mitt Romney, at podium, speaking at a press conference in Draper describing his proposed fire commission. Photo: Paul Nelson)

DRAPER – Utah Senator Mitt Romney says the federal government is not taking a close enough look at the growing problem of wildfires across the western states. He’s calling for a new commission dedicated to finding the best ways to keep smaller fires from becoming major catastrophes.

Romney describes the federal government’s approach to wildfires as a “patchwork of legislation,” partly due to so many different agencies owning and watching over different plots of land.

“One time it might be [Department of] Interior, another time it’s the forestry department, and other times, it’s state land or private land.  Each has different rules and regulations,” he says.

He’s calling for a thorough review of the country’s wildland firefighting strategy, and to do that, a commission of experts needs to be established to study the issue.  Romney says the commission will have a mix of federal representatives along with local experts who know a lot about fire prevention.

Romney says, “We have got to put together a comprehensive strategy and knock down the regulations that are keeping us from actually doing a better job.”

As the temperatures get hotter, Romney says the western states continue to get drier, making wildfires larger.  He says there have already been nearly 400 fires in Utah this year, burning roughly 40 thousand acres, and the overwhelming majority of them were human-caused.

“We saw some of the tragedies in California over the last couple of years. So, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, you know this is an issue we’ve got to tackle.”

Romney also says the commission needs to review the country’s firefighting aircraft and find the best locations for them to be strategically placed so they can knock down flames at a moment’s notice. Plus, they need to decide what to do with dead lumber that Romney says is just laying around, ready to burn.

“That has to happen.  It hasn’t happened in the past and, as a result of that, we’re more vulnerable today,” he says.

Romney hopes to attach this bill with the infrastructure bill being negotiated in Washington D.C.

 

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