With costs exceeding $2.4 billion, the 2017 fire season was the most expensive ever. The cumulative costs of wildland fire suppression activities, once again, exceed the funding available.
Conditions on the ground are worsening and we are now projecting the fire budget to consume two thirds of the overall budget four years sooner than originally calculated.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to finding a permanent solution to funding wildfire that restores balance between fire suppression and forest management activities. Wildfires are currently funded entirely within the Forest Service budget, based on a 10-year rolling average. Over the last few years, wildfire suppression has become more costly and this method of funding has resulted in inadequate funding for wildfire suppression. When funding is not enough, the Forest Service is forced to shift funds from other critical natural resource management programs to cover the cost of wildfire suppression. The Administration and Congress supported legislation to reform the way wildfire suppression is funded.
When the wildfires stop burning, communities experience deadly debris flows and flooding that often occur when rain follows wildfires. We don’t leave when the fire is out. Post-fire recovery work is extremely important. USDA works with people in the communities surrounding burned areas to minimize further impacts once the fires are out.
We work in cooperation with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency to provide technical assistance, including assessing natural disaster damage, writing conservation plans, and implementing forestry practices such as restoration activities across both private and public lands.
We must act now to permanently and immediately fix the fire funding problem so we can best protect the communities most at risk.