PHOTO/ADOBESTOCK: A tree stump burns in a Sierra Nevada wildfire in 2016.

As a third-generation Nevadan, I’ve seen our wildfire seasons get longer, hotter, and more dangerous. I’ve made it my mission in the Senate to get our state what it needs to fight back – from pay raises for firefighters and additional funding for wildfire prevention to resources to help Nevadans keep themselves safe.

I’m especially committed to ensuring that all our communities have key support during wildfire season. Wildfire smoke can be especially harmful for children, seniors, people with pre-existing conditions, and people who work outdoors. That’s why it’s so important for Nevadans to be as informed and prepared as possible. And that’s why I’m continuing to work to do everything I can at the federal level to help us prevent wildfires, respond to those that spark, and restore and recover after a fire.

In the Senate, I’ve continued to work in collaboration with local and state officials and at the federal level to make sure we’re doing everything we can to combat fires and keep Nevadans safe. In the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I worked to secure over $3.4 billion for wildfire prevention, suppression, and restoration, including a provision I authored that allocated $10 million for the kind of wildfire detection equipment developed at the University of Nevada, Reno. This cutting-edge equipment can detect fires sooner, giving Nevadans across the state more time to prepare and evacuate if needed. Altogether, the infrastructure law contained $8 billion in resources to combat wildfires. Some of that funding—$1 billion of it—is now available to communities in Nevada and all over the West, so that they can help prepare for fires and increase their resilience. The law also increased the pay for all 16,000 federal firefighters through 2023, and I made sure our brave firefighters got that critical raise when it was held up by bureaucratic red tape.

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

There’s more we can do to address fires. I’m leading legislation to make sure that small business owners can get disaster relief if they are forced to close or limit hours due to wildfire smoke and unhealthy air quality. And I’ve also introduced legislation to strengthen the federal government’s research into wildfires and improve technology to monitor and control them.

I’m also continuing to work to pass my Western Wildfire Support Act, a comprehensive bill to help communities in Nevada and across the Western U.S. acquire the training, equipment, and funding they need to handle the dangers posed by wild and rangeland fires. My bill would put a focus on preventing wildfires, from helping homeowners create defensible space to ensuring communities across Nevada have accessible, easy-to-follow plans that will help seniors know what to do in case of emergency.

There is a lot you can do on your own to prepare for wildfires as well. You may already have a plan to evacuate in case of fire, but if not, now is the time to make one, as well as to prepare a “go bag” with everything you need in case of disaster. The University of Nevada Reno Extension runs a program called Living With Fire (www.livingwithfire.com) that provides extensive resources. In addition, many other entities, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provide guidelines, checklists, and advice on disaster preparedness.

Everyone in the West needs to work together to cope with the increasing threat of wildfires as the climate continues to heat up. I’m proud that I’ve fostered conversations among community leaders at every level, and I’ll keep working to make sure that Nevadans have what they need to prepare for fires and recover after they hit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Reno News & Review welcomes guest opinion pieces on any subject of public interest to Nevadans. Submissions may be sent to frankm@renoNR.com

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

Catherine Cortez Masto is a U.S. senator from Nevada.

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