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Budget Deal Includes Wildfire Disaster Fund To End Borrowing

WASHINGTON (AP) – 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.