Wildfires burned record acreage in 2015
Last year, wildfires burned more than 10 million acres across the U.S., agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week.
He urged Congress to pass the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act in a USDA release.
More than 50 fires burned more than 50,000 acres in 2015 and 20 of those burned more than 100,000 acres. More than 4,500 structures were destroyed in these fires. Thirteen wildland firefighters, including seven forest service firefighters, died fighting these fires, according to the release.
In the last 15 years, fire seasons have gotten longer and fires are getting worse, especially in the West.
That doesn’t mean that only the West feels the impact of these fires, though. Across the country, the budgetary impacts of wildfires take away from other forest service efforts. According to the USDA, in one week in 2015, wildfires burned through $243 million of the forest service’s budget. More than half of the agency’s budget goes to fighting fires.
“We take our job to protect the public seriously, and recently, the job has become increasingly difficult due to the effects of climate change, chronic droughts, and a constrained budget environment in Washington. Congress must fix the fire budget to stop an ever-increasing amount of the operating budget going to fire suppression. Failing to do so will result in more deadly and devastating fires in the future,” Vilsack said.