Western lawmakers are worried that the limited amount of time that Congress is working this year will push an issue burning up their states into next year.
After a 2015 fire season that cost taxpayers $4.2 billion, Congress began discussing long-term funding fixes for fighting wildfires but made little headway. Now, with the 2016 fire season starting, time is running out on making any changes this year.
|'You can be sure that we will get more money if needed. We're not going to let fires roar out of control.'|
Last year's deadly fire season burned up more than 9.4 million acres, which included California's Valley Fire, a blaze that burned for weeks, destroyed thousands of buildings and killed four people.
More than 200 fires burned at once in Alaska, where more than 4 million acres were charred, causing enough concern that the omnibus spending package passed in late 2015 included increased funding for stopping wildfires this year.
Christine Cozakos, a Forest Service spokeswoman, said about $1.6 billion has been budgeted for wildfire suppression and the agency estimates it will spend between $1 billion-$1.7 billion. The service has exceeded its budget on wildfire suppression in all but two years since 2002.