Utah Sen. Mitt Romney Prepares New Bill To Improve Fire Policies

Jun 18, 2021, 5:51 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2021, 12:02 am

DRAPER, Utah It’s time to take a fresh look at how Utah approaches wildfires said Sen. Mitt Romney as he prepared to introduce a new bill to improve fire policies.  

Romney said the policies of the past are not working when it comes to wildfires. He said better coordination is needed as he called for a full review of the nation’s wildland firefighting strategy.

“We keep doing things the way we’ve done them in the past without recognizing that the world has changed,” Romney said. “It’s getting drier in the American West. Our state’s getting drier.” 

He announced new legislation that would establish a wildfire commission to make recommendations to Congress. 

“So this group is going to come together,” he said. “They will work for a year.” 

The goal, Romney said, is to gather a diverse group of experts to find the best policies to manage forest land, prevent fires, get them out faster and take an inventory of aircraft. 

“And to decide how many more aircraft do we need (and) of what kind? Helicopter? Fixed-wing? Where should they be stationed? How should they be called upon?” he said. “These are the kind of issues specifically they’re being asked to address.” 

“I think it’s the most important topic for us right now,” said Draper City Mayor Troy Walker.

The City of Draper, an area which is no stranger to wildfires, hosted the press conference Friday. 

“I evacuated a neighborhood last year at two in the morning,” Walker explained.

Draper borders forest property and the mayor said there should be a comprehensive look at how to do things better. 

“The problem truly is it takes a while to get those big aircraft here, and you could stop these fires sooner if we had a few stationed here permanently,” said Walker. “It would be fantastic.” 

“We can’t do this alone,” said Jamie Barnes, acting director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “Every day we are working with other wildfire entities to make this work.”

Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands also welcomes a national review, especially this year.

“It’s a bad year,” said Barnes. “Probably it could be the worst fire season we’ve ever had.” 

“The fires are becoming bigger, the loss of life is more significant and continuing to do the things the way we’ve done them in the past doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Romney.

While this commission would look at long-term wildfire policies, the other big message Friday was about stopping human-caused fires this summer and being smart with fireworks.  

Sen. Romney planned to formally introduce the legislation next week.  

Rep. John Curtis, (R-Salt Lake City) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House. 

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Utah Sen. Mitt Romney Prepares New Bill To Improve Fire Policies