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USDA chief: Soaring fire costs demand changes

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YAKIMA — The Forest Service, which is raiding its budget to pay for the escalating cost of Western wildfires, wants Congress to support a new funding system.

Wildfire suppression now accounts for 42 percent of the agency’s $5.6 billion budget, compared to just 16 percent of the 1995 budget, according to a new report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service’s parent department. That doesn’t include funds borrowed from other programs when fires burn through its…

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