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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — After another dry winter across much of the West, fire officials are poised for a tough wildfire season that will be even more challenging because federal budget cuts mean fewer firefighters on the ground, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Monday.
Jewell, who is just five weeks into her new job, said automatic budget cuts mandated by Congress will force fire managers to make choices as they prioritize resources.
They also will have fewer resources to use on strategies designed to reduce future fire potential, such as prescribed burns and reseeding.
“We will fight the fires and we will do them safely,” Jewell said. “But the resources will go to suppression, which is not ideal. What you’re not doing is putting the resources in place to thoughtfully manage the landscape for the future.”
Jewell spent the past two days touring the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, the government’s national wildfire nerve center. She was joined by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who said the U.S. Forest Service alone will hire 500 fewer firefighters and deploy 50 fewer engines this season.
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