As Wildfires Ravage Oregon, Support Grows for Ron's Plan to Fix Fire Funding

The cost of fighting wildfires has skyrocketed, and so too have growing concerns over the current system of wildfire funding. The current cycle of underfunding fire suppression has created a system that forces federal agencies to dip into fire prevention funding just to fight this year's fires.

The practice of borrowing fire prevention funds to pay for fire suppression means the Forest Service has been unable to pay for projects that will prevent more frequent and severe wildfires in the future.

To combat this, Ron proposed a wildfire funding bill with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo to end the dangerous cycle of raiding fire prevention accounts to fight fires by funding the largest wildfires like other natural disasters.

Ron, Sen. Crapo and nine other senators have pledged to work for a real solution to wildfire funding when the Senate returns next week.

  • OPB: USFS Spends $10M Per Day On Wildfires In Oregon

 “Nationwide, the agencies spend $150 million per week on fire suppression. The cost of fighting wildfires has soared. It’s now 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget, Vilsack said. ‘(It’s) the first time in the history of the Forest Service that we’re spending more money for fire suppression than anything else,’ he said.”

Here's a roundup of recent stories on the growing fire funding problem, and the need to pass Ron's solution:

 “Congress should waste no time passing this legislation, which comes amid predictions of a catastrophic fire season. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently warned that wildfire-fighting costs could run hundreds of millions over budget.”

  • KATU News: Federal and state firefighting coordinators hear dire forecast

“’ We will take action; we always have taken action. It will affect some other program delivery though,’ said Jim Peña, the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Regional Forester.  

That can mean taking the ax to forest fire prevention programs.”

  • Portland Tribune: Wyden, U.S. agriculture secretary to get update on Western wildfires

 “Unless Congress acts, Americans will continue gradually losing the benefits of our forests — fewer available campgrounds, erosion polluting our streams and rivers, lost jobs as timber projects stall, and most ironically and worryingly, more frequent and more severe wildfires as we loot fire prevention to pay for the fires burning right now.”

  • LA Times: As wildfires rage and budgets dwindle, more federal funds sought for firefighting

 “We have a national treasure here, and we want to do a better job of preserving and protecting that national treasure. We just simply have to have the resources and the flexibility to do so, and Sen. Wyden's bill will give us that opportunity.”

  • Capital Press: Wyden seeks change in Forest Service wildfire budgeting

“Forest and rangeland officials have counted 3,382 fires in Oregon and Washington since June 1, with 1.4 million acres burned. Three firefighters died in Washington, and dozens of homes and outbuildings have been destroyed in the two states. To date, the fires have cost an estimated $370 million to fight, with nearly 11,000 firefighters deployed. Fire managers have counted nearly 60,000 lightning strikes this summer.”

  • Coloradoan: U.S. spending $150 million per week on wildfires

“Wyden has introduced legislation that would treat the most severe fires as natural disasters and use disaster relief funds to fight them. This should prevent the need to shift money from other uses.”

  • Spokesman-Review: As wildfire costs continue to rise, Crapo, Wyden, Risch say it’s time to change how firefighting is funded

 “The bill, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, has 16 Senate cosponsors from both parties and support from 250 organizations; an identical version in the House, sponsored by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, has 124 co-sponsors from both parties, including lead co-sponsor Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.”

  • KTVZ: Wyden secures backing for wildfire funding fix

 “’We know that wildfires are going to continue to be a threat, and we can better prepare for the increasing costs of wildland fire management by making needed changes that will support the preparation of firefighters and land managers,’ Crapo said in a statement for the record. ‘That is why I partnered with Senator Ron Wyden in introducing legislation, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, to provide for more efficient and effective fire management.’”