Wildfires burning a hole in taxpayers' pockets

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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.

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