United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that in 2015, wildfires burned a record 10,125,149 acres across the United States, surpassing the previous record set in 2006. The Secretary renewed the call for Congress to pass the bi-partisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.
In 2015, there were more than 50 fires that exceeded 50,000 acres each; of those, 20 fires exceeded more than 100,000 acres each. In 2015, more than 4,500 homes and other structures were destroyed by wildfires and a total of 13 wildland firefighters, including 7 U.S. Forest Service firefighters, lost their lives in the line of duty.
"These fires have very real human costs, as we lost seven members of the Forest Service firefighting team in the line of duty, and 4,500 homes were lost. We take our job to protect the public seriously, and recently, the job has become increasingly difficult due to the effects of climate change, chronic droughts, and a constrained budget environment in Washington. Congress must fix the fire budget to stop an ever-increasing amount of the operating budget going to fire suppression. Failing to do so will result in more deadly and devastating fires in the future," said Secretary Vilsack.