Press Release
For Immediate Release: 
July 29, 2022
Contact Info: 
Raymond Rodriguez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of H.R. 5118, the Wildfire and Drought Resiliency Act. Below is a copy of his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video:
 
Click here for a link to the video.

“Madam Speaker, I rise in support of our nation’s firefighters and their vital work to protect our communities and our forests – as well as those working to keep clean drinking water flowing to those who need it. In September 2020, as the El Dorado Fire raged through California, Big Bear ‘hotshot’ firefighter Charlie Morton said to his loved ones what he always said when there was a fire in the area: ‘I’ve got to go protect my mountains.’ Hotshots like Morton serve in the vanguard; they’re tasked with making the area safe for other firefighters to operate. As one hotshot explained: ‘we do not get to turn around and walk away.’

“Morton knew his work was extremely dangerous, but he did it anyway because he believed in the importance of protecting our nation’s forests and the communities they sustain. On September 17, 2020, backed into a corner by the encroaching flames, Morton laid down his life in defense of that conviction. It was a noble sacrifice but one that no one should have to make. Much like Morton and his fellow hotshots, America cannot afford to ‘turn around and walk away’ from the issue of wildfires. We must do everything we can to ensure that other brave firefighters do not have to give the full measure of their devotion as Morton did. That’s why I’m proud to serve as Co-Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and to bring this Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency bill to the Floor today.

“Exacerbated by the climate crisis, parts of the American West are experiencing their worst drought in 1,200 years, and this is fueling deadly and damaging wildfires affecting millions of Americans. These disasters tear through communities and inflict untold destruction and grief. This issue doesn’t just affect those living in the West, however. The effects of droughts and wildfires cost our country tens of billions of dollars each year. To my friends on the other side of the aisle who constantly deride our attempts to address the climate crisis as ‘too expensive,’ I would remind them that the cost of inaction – in the form of more frequent, more severe fires, droughts, and other natural disasters – is far greater. This legislation would help us prevent and fight future wildfires by making investments to support our firefighting response and to protect vulnerable communities from wildfires.

“This bill, for instance, would establish a minimum basic pay rate of roughly $20 dollars an hour for our wildland firefighters and ensure they have access to other benefits, such as at least one week of mental-health leave. Additionally, this legislation will authorize a ten-year national wildfire response plan, building on actions already taken by the Biden Administration, and it will expand the role of Tribes and Conservation Corps programs in reducing wildfire risk. This bill also includes $500 million in federal funding for programs to preserve key Colorado River reservoirs upon which tens of millions of Americans rely for water. All of these provisions will help us build on the progress we made with the fire and drought-prevention measures included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which included close to $17 billion dollars for wildfire and drought prevention and response.

“I want to thank House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva for his leadership on this legislation as well as Chairs David Scott, Frank Pallone, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and Carolyn Maloney for their Committees’ contributions.  We can take meaningful action to address these wildfires and drought by voting ‘yes’ on this bill.

“Although Charlie Morton perished in the El Dorado fire, his courageous efforts and those of his fellow firefighters made it possible to extinguish the flames. They were able to protect Morton’s mountains – including a pristine meadow now named in his memory. They did their part to defend our forests and our communities. Today, we must do ours. Vote ‘yes.’”