Limited federal funds may mean cuts to local firefighting programs

Posted: May 14, 2013

Written by

Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman
Wildfire fighters

Lance Okeson at the Boise Fire Dispatch office had a surprise visit from the secretaries of the U.S. Agriculture and Interior departments Monday, and they came with bad news.

Okeson is in charge of the fuels program for the Bureau of Land Management's Boise District. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told Okeson and, later, reporters that to meet the demands of firefighting, the federal agencies will have to cut money for thinning and clearing hazardous fuels from around communities, work that reduces fire danger in the future.

The Forest Service will have 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer engines going into the fire season because of the across-the-board cuts Congress approved. Add more than 2 percent of other cuts forced on the agency, which manages 193 million acres, and the overall cut is more than 7 percent, Vilsack said.

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