Republican News

Republican News

Jul 21 2004

4.5 MILLION ACRES LOST TO WILD FIRE THIS SEASON, HEAVY BURN MONTHS STILL AHEAD

Fire fighting costs could exceed $1.7 billion this year

Washington, D.C. – Senate Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Pete V. Domenici today expressed grave concern over the loss of 4.5 million acres to wild fire at this point in the year. The heaviest fire months, August and September, are still ahead. If fires of this magnitude and intensity continue through the year, losses could exceed 10 million acres and $1.7 billion in firefighting costs, Domenici said. Chairman Domenici’s statement: Year to date, we have lost more forest to fire than any time in the past 50 years. I am gravely concerned. We have more than 90 million acres of forests at high risk for deadly fire. So far this year, we’ve lost 4.5 million acres. If this rate of loss continues, we could lose as much as 11 million acres and spend nearly $2 billion fighting these fires. I am thankful that House and Senate negotiators have agreed to put an additional $500 million for fire suppression into the Department of Defense Appropriations Conference report that the Senate will consider this week. Given this devastating fire season, we will need those funds. Last fall, Congress passed the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. That legislation is making a difference. This year, we have pulled dead wood and underbrush off 155,000 acres of dry, diseased forest vulnerable to fire. We are getting ready to clear an additional 2.2 million acres. But it will take us years to reduce a fire risk it took us decades to create. To put this year’s loss in perspective, by this same date in 2000 we had only lost 2.8 million acres. By the end of that year, we had lost 7.4 million acres to fire. The fires of 2002 were the worst in 50 years. But on July 21, 2002, we had only lost 3.6 million acres. By the end of that year, we lost nearly 7.2 million acres. Devastating fires in Alaska have forced the repeated evacuations of homes near Fairbanks, Alaska. While fires of this magnitude decimate our forests, I will fight tirelessly for expanded fire prevention work to protect lives, wildlife, forests and watershed.