Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press
In this April 26, 2013, file photo, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the House Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies budget hearing on forest service. T

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.