​Forest Service spends over $2bn in order to battle forest fires

Forest fire burning,

The US Forest Service has spent more than a whopping $2 billion in order to battle forest fires up and down the country – a perhaps unsurprising record given this has been one of the nation’s worst ever fire seasons.
The American West has been completely ravaged by wildfires this summer, and as of the 14th September 2017, there were 64 large fires burning across 10 states. This included 21 major fires in Montana, and 18 in Oregon. In total, there have been 48,607 wildfires at time of writing, which have burned through almost 13,000 square miles of land (33,586 square kilometres).
As such, the fires have massively stretched firefighting resources, ripped through over 500 homes and even triggered health alerts, as smoke drifted in major Western cities, choking residents.
The Forest Service, which is part of the US Department of Agriculture, is the nation’s first port of call when it comes to firefighting agencies.
The added impetus on firefighting means that money normally reserved for insect control, prescribed burns, and other prevention efforts are diverted towards putting out fires. As a result of this, small trees and vegetation stay in the forest for future blazes to feed on.
For years, the Agriculture Department have been asking Congress to change the way that firefighting is funded, primarily so that the Forest Service doesn’t have to raid non-fire programs in bad years.
The spending figure, which was announced on the 14th of September, is the first time ever that wildfire spending by the Forest Service has broken through the $2bn barrier – previously, the record was $1.7bn in 2015.
To compound matters further, those figures don’t include spending from Interior Department agencies – such as the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management – and spending by both state and local governments are also excluded.
According to the Interior Department, at least $391m was spent with several weeks left in the fire season, while the previous record for combined federal firefighting costs was also in 2015, and that figure was £2.1bn.
In previous years, there have been larger areas burned, however there have been lower costs in order to fight fires. This year’s fires have brought back discussions about thinning overgrown forests in order to reduce risk.

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