Budget deal includes wildfire disaster fund

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 A spending bill slated for a vote in Congress includes a bipartisan plan to create a wildfire disaster fund to help combat increasingly severe wildfires that have devastated the West in recent years.

The bill sets aside more than $20 billion over 10 years to allow the Forest Service and other federal agencies end a practice of raiding non-fire-related accounts to pay for wildfire costs, which exceeded $2 billion last year.

Western lawmakers have long complained that the current funding mechanism – tied to 10-year averages for wildfire – makes budgeting difficult, even as fires burn longer and hotter each year.

The new plan sets aside $2 billion per year – outside the regular budget – so officials don’t have to tap money meant for prevention programs to fight wildfires.

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