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Feds expect firefighting costs to approach $2 billion this summer

 Posted: 12:05 PM May 01, 2014

The U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department project they will need nearly half a billion more dollars to fight wildfires this year than what is in their accounts.

In a report prepared for Congress, the Forest Service and Interior anticipate their needs will be $470 million more than the $1.4 billion available.

The mandated forecast is the highest in several years. The government said drought conditions in the West, especially in California, combine with other factors to portend a dangerous fire season. Last year, fires burned 4.1 million acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, and 34 firefighters lost their lives.

Both departments have had to divert funds from other programs to fund firefighting efforts for 7 of the last 12 years.

During the past three decades, fire season lengths have increased by 60 to 80 days and annual acreages burned have more than doubled to over 7 million acres annually. In addition, growing housing development in forests has put more people and houses in harms' way, also making firefighting efforts more expensive.

— Greg Stiles

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