Senator Carper Emphasizes Need for Improved Disaster Response Operations in Wake of Increasing Wildfire Threat

Yesterday, at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Hearing “A Nation on Fire: Responding to the Increasing Wildfire Threat,” U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) emphasized ways that the federal government can adapt its disaster response, recovery, and mitigation operations. Senator Carper, a senior member of the Committee, noted that this is especially important in light of some of the worst U.S. wildfire seasons on record.

Senator Carper highlighted the connection between climate change and the frequency and severity of wildfires and other disasters that pose threats to communities nationwide:

“I represent the state of Delaware. We don’t have a lot of wildfires, but we do have a lot of firefighters, and we revere them and the good work that they do. We have challenges that emanate from the ocean. We have sea level rise wiping out parts of our beaches and our farmland along the coast. And it’s not just Delaware, it’s all up and down the east coast, the west coast as well. I like to say, in my state, it’s not enough just to addresses the symptoms of sea level rise and the devastation that comes from it. We have to address root causes. We all know what the root cause [of wildfires] is: it’s climate change, too much carbon in the air. The good news is we’re doing a lot as a country, leading the world in addressing that and we need to do more of that. We will not only make sure we have great beaches in places like Delaware, but also make sure that we will have fewer wildfires to fight across the country.”

Senator Carper also discussed the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in coordinating with authorities on the ground to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from wildfires:

“[T]he evidence is pretty clear: the rate of wildfires is escalating at a rapid pace, and posing significant risks to the health and safety of communities not just out west, but across our country. Wildfires are not only more frequent, they are more destructive than ever before, and are more likely to burn hotter because of climate change. Extreme and persistent drought create drier fuel for those fires, and its accumulation over years creates the conditions that lead to high-temperature fire storms that are extremely dangerous and move fast. The result is more loss of life and more loss of property. FEMA plays a critical role in assisting state and local authorities in reducing the risk to our environment, our infrastructure, and our public health.”

A video of Senator Carper’s questions at yesterday’s hearing can be found here