In a two-day survey of the extensive damage caused by recent wildfires in Idaho and California, US President Joe Biden has promoted his administration’s use of the Defense Production Act to aid in wildfire preparedness.
On Monday in Idaho, Biden toured the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, before moving on to Sacramento, where he toured areas affected by this summer’s wildfires.
The administration activated the wartime provision in early August to boost the supply of fire hoses for the US Forest Service, by helping to ease supply chain issues affecting the agency’s primary firehose supplier.
It marks the second use of the wartime law, after the president used it to boost vaccine supplies, though the administration had not previously announced it publicly.
The use of the Defense Production Act helped an Oklahoma City not for profit organisation, called NewView Oklahoma, which provides the bulk of the US Forest Service’s hoses, obtain needed supplies to produce and ship 415 miles of firehoses.
Biden showcased the move as part of broader remarks on the work his administration has done to address yet another devastating wildfire season across the western United States.
The President was also using this trip to lay out his vision for infrastructure investments to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Biden’s western visit is aimed primarily at drumming up support for his massive $3.5 trillion spending plan by linking it to beating back wildfires and upgrading social programs.
In the two-day trip, which includes a stop in Colorado on Tuesday, Biden is looking to connect the dots for Americans between the increasing frequency of wildfires in the West — as well other extreme weather events around the country — and the need to invest billions in combating the climate crisis.
The climate provisions in Biden’s budget include tax incentives for clean energy and electric vehicles, investments to transition the economy away from fossil fuels and toward renewable sources such as wind and solar power, and creation of a civilian climate corps.
In June the Biden administration in June laid out a strategy to deal with the growing wildfire threat, which included hiring more federal firefighters and implementing new technologies to detect and address fires quickly.
Last month, the president approved a disaster declaration for California, providing federal aid for the counties affected by the Dixie and River fires. Just ahead of Monday’s visit he issued another disaster declaration for the state, this time aimed at areas affected by the Caldor Fire.
Biden also travelled recently to New York, New Jersey and Louisiana to survey damage caused by Hurricane Ida. He declared it a “code red” moment for the nation to act on climate during a visit to a New York City neighborhood impacted by Ida:
“Folks, the evidence is clear: Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy,” he said during the New York visit. “And the threat is here; it’s not going to get any better. The question: Can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse.”