Congressional funding has not kept pace with decades of federal firefighting costs. Now, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake are pushing to fully pay for suppression efforts. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
The amendment proposed by McCain and Flake would require Congress to fully fund the increasing costs. It would also end so-called fire borrowing. The U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are forced to raid non-fire-related budgets to cover emergency suppression nearly every year.
The Forest Service has spent more than $2 billion on fire-fighting in 2017, making it the most costly year in the agency’s history. Wildfire suppression now consumes more than half of the total Forest Service budget, up from only 15 percent two decades ago.
More than 8.7 million acres of public land have burned so far in 2017.