It’s official, this year’s forest fire season was the worst on record for the United States. It was the longest duration, it resulted in the largest fires, and it resulted in the most acres burned.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that the budget used to fund fire fighting has been exhausted. But in a perfect metaphor for robbing the future to pay for the present the Forest Service has decided to divert funds used to prevent fires in order to fight the fires still cropping up in the west.
From the Washington Post:
In the worst wildfire season on record, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service ran out of money to pay for firefighters, fire trucks and aircraft that dump retardant on monstrous flames. So officials did about the only thing they could: take money from other forest management programs.
But many of the programs were aimed at preventing giant fires in the first place, and raiding their budgets meant putting off the removal of dried brush and dead wood over vast stretches of land — the things that fuel eye-popping blazes, threatening property and lives.
The problem with diverting funds now is that there’s no guarantee next year won’t be as bad or worse. In fact, a growing global warming crisis is resulting in a long-term drying out of the US west and heartland. Reports show that the years since 2000 and leading up to the present have been the 5th driest for the US west in 500 years. In addition, climate models show that as global warming advances, the US continues to dry out.
One would think that prevention would be the best course in fighting this battle. Reducing carbon emissions would go a long way toward preventing a rapid rise in fires across the west and even worse damages to come. The risk becomes that, as costs mount, the US is no longer able to pay to prevent, fight or repair all the damage from wildfires, droughts, sea level rise, or other extreme weather emergencies. This exhaustion of public resources is a primary first threat posed by climate change and the impacts, as we can see in the running out of fire money, and in the 75 billion dollar and growing US drought, are happening now.