WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. Forest Service says the cost of fighting wildfires this season could be well over $1 billion and that the agency may have to borrow money from the very programs designed to prevent big fires in the first place.
Tom Tidwell's testimony before a Senate committee came as California and several other Western states are battling drought.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska says she visited Fairbanks recently and couldn't remember a beginning of May with no snow on the ground.
Tidwell says an above average fire season is the new normal. He said the estimated cost this season ranges from about $800 million to $1.7 billion.
Lawmakers say changes are needed in the way the federal government budgets for firefighting season.