Wildfire season is upon us as was evident with a fire near the Chelan Airport Monday, where the Carlton Complex Fire devastated the area in 2015.
On Thursday Sen. Maria Cantwell questioned the U.S. Forest Service Chief about wildfire fighting cuts the Trump Administration’s 2018 budget proposal. The proposal would cut $300 Million in funding for fire suppression or firefighting.
“I don't see how the President's budget even begins to allow the Forest Service to fulfill its motto of caring for the land and serving the people,” Cantwell said to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell.
Tidwell acknowledged it wasn’t easy to propose the cuts, but said it’s necessary as a shift to greater emphasis on fire prevention.
The wildfire predictive map for this year lists Washington as having a normal year for risk, with Northern California and Nevada expected to have the worst conditions. Forest Service scientists say there's a 50% chance they'll run out of money this year, and that they would have to borrow from other funds.
Cantwell also expressed concerns of the proposal to reduce funding for volunteer fire departments by 23%.
“If there's one thing I've heard from communities across our state is (volunteer firefighters are) playing a key role because of the number of fire starts that are there,” Cantwell said.
Tidwell indicated it doesn’t mean the U.S. Forest Service won’t help the volunteer departments.
“There is less funding to be available,” Tidwell said. “But we will continue to do what we can to provide the equipment, the surplus federal equipment that's so essential to these volunteers. But it's just an example of the tough choices that we have.”
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