State foresters are responsible for wildfire protection on nearly two-thirds of America’s forested lands.
With more people living in fire-prone landscapes close to wildlands, protecting these state and private forests from wildfire has been increasingly difficult. Today, many of the nation’s state foresters are charged with managing millions of acres of overstocked, drought- and pest-comprised forests prime for burning.
The federal Government spent over $3 Billion on fighting wildfires in 2018.
Today’s fire seasons last 78 days longer on average than they did in the 1970s, and are projected to grow hotter, more unpredictable, and more expensive still. Over the last few decades, the portion of the USDA Forest Service’s total budget dedicated to fire has grown from under 20 percent to more than 50 percent. As wildfires burn through larger and larger shares of the agency’s budget, critical funding that supports federal, state, and private forests is reduced through a process called “fire borrowing.”
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations omnibus provided a wildfire funding fix to end fire borrowing for good. Starting in FY 2020, $2.25 billion for wildfire suppression will be available to the USDA and the Department of the Interior. This budget authority will increase by $100 million each year, ending at $2.95 billion in FY 2027.
For the duration of the eight-year fix, the fire suppression account will be funded at the FY 2015 president’s budget request of $1.011 billion. If funding over the cap is used, the USDA secretary will be required to submit a report to Congress documenting the decision-making and cost drivers that led to the additional expenditures. Learn more about the wildfire funding fix and the federal forest management reforms included in the FY 2018 appropriations omnibus.
State forestry agencies Spent an additional $1.9 billion of their own funds in 2018 to prevent, mitigate, and suppress wildfires.
State forestry agencies provide wildfire protection on 1.5 billion acres, including 1.1 billion acres in state and private ownership. The costs of providing this protection, as well as wildfire mitigation and prevention programming across the country, are significant.
In 2018, more than 58,000 wildfires burned more than 8.8 million acres of land.
Because wildfire is a national land management issue, it must be treated like one. Hotshot crews, fire fighting equipment, and other valuable resources are shared among states, the federal government, and other agencies countrywide, year-round, and across landscapes of varying ownerships.
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (“Cohesive Strategy”) is the roadmap for interagency wildland fire management across the country that allows diverse stakeholders to work collaboratively using the best science to make meaningful progress toward resilient landscapes, fire-adapted communities, and effective wildfire response.
Within the cooperative structure of the Cohesive Strategy, states contribute tremendously every year to fighting wildfires on federal lands. For instance, in 2018, 6,026 out of the 8,080 state personnel mobilized through the National Interagency Coordination Center were sent to respond to wildfires burning on federal lands.
State forestry agencies also provide local governments and volunteer fire departments with access to fire and emergency response resources, which in 2018, included 93,656 firefighters, 91,940 fire engines, 2,851 dozers, and 620 aircraft.
training and Equipment
SFA and VFA provide swift response capability for fighting fires on federal lands.
The federal State Fire Assistance and Volunteer Fire Assistance (SFA and VFA) programs provide financial assistance to states and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention, detection, and suppression. In addition to helping ensure that the nation’s first responders are prepared, the programs provide funding to complete hazardous fuels treatments that protect communities from wildfires.
In 2018, SFA funding helped more than 15,000 communities develop and implement Community Wildfire Protection Plans, risk assessments, or fire management plans. The program also helped to train thousands of state wildland firefighters, who are the first responders to more than 80% of wildland fires in the United States — whether on state, federal, or private lands.
The VFA program helped 13,959 communities train 21,868 firefighters, expand or organize 48 fire departments, and purchase, rehabilitate, or maintain nearly $11 million in equipment in 2018. Adequate capacity is critical to reducing wildfire risk to people and property: VFA grants, administered by state forestry agencies, build that capacity.
National Complex Incident Management Course
The national Complex Incident Management Course (CIMC) provides training for state emergency responders on multi-jurisdictional and all-hazard issues, including wildfire. The course is delivered up to twice a year and can be completed within a week. Click here to learn more about the program’s objectives and how to participate.