Lawmakers thought they fixed the U.S. Forest Service’s “fire borrowing” problem earlier this year. But the breadth and intensity of fires scorching the West this year is likely to prompt the agency to raid other accounts one last time before budgetary changes go into effect in fiscal 2020.
The issue could come to a head once again on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks and months, as lawmakers and the administration weigh the need for another infusion of taxpayer dollars ahead of the midterm elections — and California’s devastating fires have already become a campaign issue.
The Forest Service had approximately $196 million in fire suppression funds remaining as of Aug. 6. But given the rate of spending so far this year, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has notified Congress that the agency is preparing a $555 million transfer from other accounts to ensure it can keep fighting the fires.