MISSOULA, Mont. - As fires continue to erupt in parts of the United States, the cost of firefighting is racking up. Overall, the federal government has been spending less money on actual prevention work over the years.
Funding for the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program has gone from $421 million in 2002 up to $500 million in 2012, but when those figures are adjusted for inflation, it's a decrease. The Obama administration has proposed a cut to the program, possibly bringing it to $292 million.
"It's a wicked public policy question," Forest Service Director of Fire and Aviation Management Tom Harbour said to the Associated Press. "We've got to make trade-offs. We're living in a time of constrained budgets."
Fire experts say that fire seasons seem to be starting earlier, and lasting longer. Firefighting efforts have been increasingly taking up more of the Forest Service's budget.
Back in 1991, fire suppression took 13 percent of the organization's budget, but in 2012, that number was up to 40 percent.