By Zach Montague
With a record-shattering heat wave suffocating much of the Pacific Northwest and a drought-fueled wildfire season already well underway in New Mexico, Arizona and California, President Biden will attend a virtual meeting with leaders of Western states on Wednesday to discuss strategies to minimize weather-related disasters this summer.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Friday that the president planned to bring together members of his cabinet and the Western governors to assess “the devastating intersection of drought, heat, and wildfires,” as well as “prevention, preparedness, and response efforts for this wildfire season.”
The governors of California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming are expected to attend. With temperatures in Seattle climbing into triple digits over the past three days, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said Tuesday that he would join as well, according to news reports.
The eye-popping temperatures across the West this week have added to the alarm over the punishing drought conditions already gripping the region.
California, coming off its worst wildfire season on record last year, is bracing for another summer of destructive fires, with mountain snowpack and reservoir levels already near record lows.
The fires last year caused rolling blackouts and forced evacuations across the region, leaving many people displaced and without power. The current heat wave has left tens of thousands without power across Idaho, Oregon, California and Nevada on Monday.
Last week, Mr. Biden met with Deanne Criswell, the administrator of FEMA, to weigh the federal government’s readiness for extreme weather. He promised to increase wages for federal firefighters.
“I didn’t realize this, I have to admit — that federal firefighters get paid $13 an hour,” he said at the meeting. “That’s going to end in my administration — that’s a ridiculously low salary to pay federal firefighters.”
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