Wildfire fighting money tight, system needs reform, USFS chief says

(Photo: CPR/Eric Whitney)
<p><span style="font-family: proxima-nova, &#039;Helvetica Neue&#039;, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17.99999237060547px; background-color: rgb(246, 246, 246);">Smoke over the Black Forest Fire in 2013.</span></p>
Photo: Black forest fire smoke
Smoke over the Black Forest Fire in 2013.

U.S. Forest Service will run out of funding this year to fight the costliest wildfires, according to the agency's chief, Tom Tidwell.

"Above normal wildland fire potential exists across the north central United States and above normal wildland fire potential will threaten many parts of the West this summer," Tidwell said before a hearing on Capitol Hill. "We anticipate another active fire year, underscoring the need to reform our wildfire funding."

The forecast indicates there is a 90 percent chance that this year's Forest Service fire suppression costs will be between $794 million and $1.657 billion, with a median estimate of $1.225 billion, potentially forcing the diversion of funding from other vital programs to support suppression operations.

“It’s past time for us to find a solution and be able to move on and to stop this disruptive practice of shutting down operations in the fall to be able to transfer money," said Tidwell.