For Immediate Release
Nurses Call for Stepped Up Federal Effort on Fires
WASHINGTON - With the death toll now topping at least 21 people, and fire officials saying the disastrous North Bay wildfires remaining far from contained, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United yesterday called on the federal government for a far greater urgent response with additional equipment and firefighting personnel.
“The Trump Administration has been distressingly slow in taking the urgent steps needed to protect the people and communities affected,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of both CNA and NNU.
CNA RNs have been directly affected by at least six major wildfires that have raged in Northern California counties, as first responders, evacuating patients in two Santa Rosa, CA hospitals, and also dealing with their own losses. At least 15 RNs have also lost their homes.
Kaiser San Rafael RN Tara Williams described 100 patients being brought to her hospital by bus who “were all pretty overwhelmed and concerned about their homes, but we were giving them food and support and helping them get into a safe space where they could be cared for.”
Now in its third full day of battling the destructive fires, “we’re not going to be out of the woods for a great many days to come,” California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection head Ken Pimlott told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday. In addition to the deaths, some 560 people are reported missing, a number partly due to loss of communication facilities, many people under evacuation order, and a total of 22 fires ripping through the state.
“With California officials fully engaged, and the fires still posing a major threat to lives and homes. But this is a national responsibility as well. We need to see immediate action from the federal government – as well as a robust commitment to rebuilding shattered infrastructure in the path of all of these horrific disasters,” said DeMoro.
Trump’s proposed 2018 budget shows disturbing priorities at a time when wildfires are increasing, in part due to the effects of the climate crisis, DeMoro noted.
Under the proposed budget, the Huffington Post reported in July, the U.S. Forest Service would face a $300 million reduction to its wildfire fighting programs, another $50 million in cuts to its wildfire prevention efforts and a 23 percent reduction to funding for volunteer fire departments.
Consumer legend Ralph Nader was also among those calling for stepped up federal action. “Wildfires rage in California destroying houses and towns. Not enough firefighters or equipment, Mr. Trump. Get on it!” Nader tweeted Wednesday.
Nurses: Long Past Time to Address Climate Crisis
Both the wildfires and the devastating recent series of hurricanes are a reminder, DeMoro added, “of the cost to life, health, and the other necessities of life of failing to act on climate disruption.” Climate change directly contributes to conditions that fuel the intensity and severity of wildfires and hurricanes.
“When is the time to talk about the climate change, and act on implementing robust, effective mitigating actions? Yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” said DeMoro.
“We must of course provide immediate response to protect patients, and all area residents in the face of disasters like this,” said CNA and NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN. “But nurses will continue to urge elected officials to end policies of climate denial and act, for the health and safety of patients, and our planet.”
National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.