Budget legislation nearing approval for More Budget to fight Wildfires

By Money Times

Dec 29, 2015 07:11 AM EST

Budget legislation closes in on an additional $610 million to fight wildfires in 2016, which still needs approval by the Congress.

According to ABC News, the budget will be given to the US Forest Service, which spent $1.7 billion in extinguishing fires in 2015. Even with the additional budget, there is still no concrete long-term solution for the year after year fire incidents. The agency has been borrowing money from other programs to pay for the cost of quelling fire.

KLCC reported that according to the US Department of Agriculture, the US Forest Service has spent 60 percent of its budget on fighting fire this year. Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley commended the additional budget, but they suggested that the Congress must find a way to ensure that firefighting won't take up most of other programs in the agency.

"This bill marks an enormous improvement over past years when we have dramatically underfunded fighting wildfires," Merkley said. "Now, we need a long-term solution that funds fighting massive wildfires like we fund other disasters, ensuring we no longer have to shut down other Forest Service programs to fund firefighting in bad fire years."

Star Tribune wrote that the US Forest Service has exhausted its entire budget to fight fire as early as August. This month has seen the most devastating fire seasons in US history. If there is no adequate firefighting budget next year, the Congress will have to get the fund from the emergency funding. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "The American public can no longer afford delays to forest restoration and other critical Forest Service activities caused by annual fire transfers."

The Obama Administration wants to tackle firefighting the same way they handle natural disasters when providing funds. However, according to Alaska Representative Senator Lisa Murkowski, fire incidents are a series of events, and not a onetime catastrophe like hurricanes and tornadoes.

The budget legislation is set to provide a total of $1.6 billion to fight fire. This is an increase from $1 billion this year. Seven firefighters died and 15,000 square miles in the US has been claimed by fire this year.

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