The exorbitant cost of fighting catastrophic wildfires is having a negative impact on prevention efforts in the United States.
The New York Times reports that federal dollars allotted to reduce fire risks--thinning trees and clearing acres of deadfall, for example--continue to dwindle as the cost of fighting wildfires increases, prompting the government to dip into funds initially reserved for prevention efforts.
"There is a growing consensus in the West that dollar for dollar, these kinds of prevention efforts are paying off," Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told the Times. "And when the big fire breaks out, the bureaucracy steals money from the prevention fund and the problem gets worse. The Forest Service has become the fire service."
Exemplifying the problem, the Times reports that the Forest Service 20 years ago spent 13 percent of its budget on firefighting. Today, that figure has swelled to 40 percent.
While studies have underscored the effectiveness of thinning forests and other governmental efforts, homeowners also play a crucial role in keeping fires in check. More than 900 communities nationwide have taken part in the Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program, another effective approach in mitigating wildfire risks. Check out NFPA's Firewise site for success stories, a Firewise communities map, and an array of no-cost resources.