Nebraska Wildfire Control Act

Nebraska Wildfire Control Act Sunday, March 12, 2017

Author(s): Kyle Martens

The Wildfire Control Act (WCA) was passed in 2013 in response to massive and highly destructive fires in the state. The WCA has dramatically increased the capacity of the state to reduce risk to life and property while enhancing the management and suppression efforts of wildfires. 

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About the Legislation

The 2012 wildland fire season was the worst fire season on record in Nebraska. Nearly 500,000 acres burned across the north and northwest part of the state. 65 structures were destroyed, and the cost of fighting those wildfires was in excess of $12 million. The hot dry summer combined with high winds and low humidity let to extreme fire behavior. Fortunately, no lives were lost.

These dangerous wildfires, which have the potential of growing into catastrophic blazes, and threaten lives and property across the state. Whole communities and ecosystems are at risk from the increasingly more frequent and intense wildfires.

The WCA was passed in 2013 in response to massive and highly destructive fires in the state. The WCA has dramatically increased the capacity of the state to reduce risk to life and property while enhancing the management and suppression efforts of wildfires.
Impacts of the bill have exceeded original expectations.

As a result, thousands of Nebraska residents and first responders are facing reduced risks from wildfire. WCA funding allocations for forest fuels reduction have enabled the Nebraska Forest Service to more effectively complete and secure millions of additional dollars in federal and state funding.

Because of the WCA, Nebraska’s forests are healthier and economies more resilient as rural areas experience surges in federal, state and local investment. Reducing the risks of future fires, creating jobs and reinforcing rural economies are a direct byproduct of this piece of legislation.

Leveraging the WCA

WCA funds dedicated to forest fuels reduction are leveraged to successfully secure an additional $4.8 million in federal and NET funding. $1.6 million in local contributions were also put forth, resulting in a 5:1 return on investments. 

  • Nearly 9,000 acres of overstocked dense forest fuels on critical lands near homes, ranches, and towns were thinned.
  • Two wildfire training specialists/SEAT managers located in Ainsworth and Chadron, have participated in the training of 5,482 volunteer firefighters and conducted approximately 28,517 total hours of wildfire training.
  • Three SEAT bases were constructed with WCA and federal funds in Valentine, Chadron, and Alliance, as well as a mobile base. 

Image courtesy: Dwane Witte

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Wildfire