Monday, September 18, 2017

Wildfires costs hit new record; Perdue endorses new funding scheme; weather helps Montana

The historic Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park. (AP photo)
The 2017 wildfire season has now cost more than $2 billion to fight, making it the most expensive in the nation's history. "The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal Forest Service, says it’s had to dig deeper into budgets to ward off the flames – even dipping into fire prevention funds," James Dawson reports for Boise State Public Radio in Idaho. "That leaves little to no money for prescribed burning and other forest management techniques that can prevent a manageable blaze from growing into a behemoth."

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says he wants Congress to change how the USDA pays for fighting wildfires, endorsing a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) that would treat wildfires like natural disasters such as hurricanes, with money to fight them coming from special emergency relief funds, Dawson reports.

Wildfires this season have burned about 8.4 million acres, almost 3 million more than the average of the past decade, Phil McCausland reports for NBC News. As of today, the fires cover about 1.7 million acres in Western states; some seem to be slowing down due to rain, snow and ice in hard-hit Montana.

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