Last week, Congress set aside emergency disaster aid for fighting wildfires, but it's only a temporary fix.
In August, the U.S. Forest Service released an alarming statistic: For the first time in history, more than half the agency’s annual budget is going to fight wildfires, compared to 16 percent in 1995. Tom Blush, with the U.S. Forest Service, explains.
“The fires are sucking our funding from just about everything else we do. ”
The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, proposed in January, would allot extra federal funds for fighting the most extreme fires. Rachel Cleetus, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says those dollars are essential.
“In a sense, you know, we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. We’re fighting these fires but creating greater risk for future years. At least this year they will create this special amount of money to pay for firefighting costs, but only for the 2015 fire season. It really needs to become a permanent fix.”
While the Act is still being debated in Congress, the federal budget passed last month earmarked an emergency $700 million for disaster fire aid. That money runs out at the end of this year.