Lawmakers looking for policy changes to help with future wildfires

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A disastrous year of wildfires has families across the United States in shock. As homes and businesses try to recover, lawmakers in Washington are hoping to implement policy to help in the future.

Mark Gardiner says he will likely need more cost-share help from the federal government to get back to full force on his ranch.

“We lost our house. We lost 270 miles worth of fence. We lost 600 cows,” said Mark Gardiner, a part-owner of Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kansas.

Gardiner says the rebuilding process has been easier with help from his community.

“We’re all in this together, whether you’re in Ashland, Kansas or the whole United States. If we work together, we can rebuild things, and we will,” said Gardiner.

He says he’ll need help from the federal government to get fully back on his feet. He says they have provided some funding, but more is needed.

“This community has been able to move forward, but we are all still very hopeful from some help from the federal government for some cost-share on some of these major, major expenses,” said Gardiner.

Folks in Washington are taking a look at how fire recovery and preparation efforts are funded. Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS) says funding preparedness leads to less money spent on fighting fires.

“We’re spending half the budget now on fighting fires so let’s divert some of that to start cleanup which then means it’ll free up more money for each year in succession to help make sure that there’s are fewer fires in the future,” said Estes.

Estes mentioned cleaning up lands across the U.S. that provide fuel for fires. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced legislation aimed at better managing these lands, and funding U.S. Forest Service preparedness programs.

“We want to treat the disease. We want to put the management in place so that we can prevent wildfires and drive those costs down over time,” said Westerman.

Westerman’s legislation has bipartisan support, but has not yet been voted on by the full House.

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