Readout of President Biden’s Wildfire Preparedness Meeting with Cabinet Officials, Governors and Private Sector Partners

The White House

Today, President Biden convened a meeting with Governors from Western States, Cabinet and agency officials, and energy sector partners to discuss the critical need to work together to strengthen prevention, preparedness and response efforts for this wildfire season, which is on track to outpace last season. In the meeting, the President emphasized the importance of making much-needed investments to prepare our country to do everything we can to address the growing and severe threat of wildfires and save lives. The President highlighted the series of actions his Administration is taking immediately to respond to wildfires this year, including making substantial investments in our firefighter personnel, increasing Federal firefighter pay and providing access to retention incentives, and extending the hiring of temporary firefighters to ensure a more effective response throughout this year’s fire season. The President also shared how the Biden Administration is improving our wildfire response capabilities including through the use of new technologies, and helping vulnerable communities mitigate the impact of fires through new funding. President Biden announced a $37 million grant award to California to support fire mitigation efforts as part of FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program. Last month, President Biden announced the Administration will double funding for the program to $1 billion next year in order to invest in pre-disaster resilience and mitigation resources and help strengthen the ability of communities, families, and businesses to withstand extreme weather events and other disasters.

Vice President Harris spoke about how this administration is investing in resilience to protect against wildfires and extreme weather. President Biden and Vice President Harris asked the Governors what additional support and resources they need and what immediate actions can be taken by the Federal government to protect communities from wildfires, help them deal with drought conditions, and improve emergency preparedness. The Governors – who represent a range of states across the West – talked about the importance of working closely together and closely coordinating to prevent wildfires from happening and ensure response efforts are as speedy and effective as possible. The President and his Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall asked the three CEOs of Western utilities to describe how they can improve capacity to manage extreme demands on the grid, diminish the likelihood of power infrastructure sparking or being impacted by wildfires, and rapidly develop and deploy innovative new technologies to improve extreme heat management and wildfire prevention. The President also discussed the synergistic relationship between modernizing the grid and enabling a more resilient low carbon future.

The members of the Cabinet discussed their departments’ respective efforts to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of wildfires, and answered questions from the President about what more can be done to advance collaboration with states and the private sector on prevention and response. Secretary Vilsack discussed how we have to stop doing wildfire preparedness on the cheap and must make the much-needed investments in firefighting personnel, equipment and mitigation efforts. Forest Service Chief Christiansen outlined the steps being taken to increase firefighter pay, readiness and availability. Secretary Haaland highlighted DOI’s wildfire preparedness and response efforts. Secretary Mayorkas highlighted efforts to support wildfire response and elaborated on the FEMA grant funding being awarded to California today, and the new technologies they are developing to improve early detection of wildfires and meet first responders’ operational needs. EPA Administrator Regan described new technology tools that provide broader public access to prompt and reliable information and health guidance on air quality issues resulting from wildfire smoke in their communities, and Secretary Granholm noted the work being done to support reliable power generation during extreme weather events and prevent structural energy infrastructure failures that have the potential to ignite wildfires.

Joining President Biden and Vice President Harris in the meeting were members of their homeland security team and the following members of the administration:

  • Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
  • Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm
  • Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas
  • Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks
  • Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Michael Regan
  • Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Vicki Christiansen
  • Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Rick Spinrad
  • Administrator of FEMA Deanne Criswell

The following eight Governors of western states:

  • Governor of California Gavin Newson
  • Governor of Colorado Jared Polis
  • Governor of Nevada Steve Sisolak
  • Governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham
  • Governor of Oregon Kate Brown
  • Governor of Wyoming Mark Gordon
  • Governor of Utah Spencer Cox
  • Governor of Washington Jay Inslee

The following private sector CEOs:

  • President and CEO of Portland General Electric Maria Pope
  • CEO of Bonneville Power Marketing Administration John Hairston
  • President and CEO of Edison International Pedro Pizarro

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