The west is freckled with fires. And in between each fire, the land is dry and hot. As of yesterday, six million acres of US land has caught fire in 2015. But it’s not the burning land that has firefighters anxious. It’s that the money we’re throwing at these fires is burning up, and will soon come out of the budget for preventing future fires, reports wired.com.
The vicious cycle was outlined Wednesday in a report from the US Forest Service. In the past 20 years, the agency’s firefighting budget has more than tripled, which means less money for everything else the service does. And even that budget swell isn’t enough fuel for the firefighting: Many years—including the past three—fire suppression has gone over its already-inflated budget, burning through money for other programs.
Right now, a lot of that money spent fighting fires across the west, from the Rockies to the coast. The map below looks pretty dire, but actually things aren’t that bad. Yes, six million acres have burned, and yes, that’s two million acres more than what is typical. But five million of those acres burned in Alaska, which is awful for climate change but not so bad for the Forest Service’s budget. One, a lot of that land isn’t in the Forest Service’s jurisdiction. Two, Alaska is practically empty of people, and because those fires aren’t really threatening anybody they don’t need as much attention.
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