/ Modified oct 20, 2017 9:18 a.m.

Report: Climate Change, Budget Limitations Making U.S. Wildfires Worse

Lack of political urgency and social push stand in way of addressing the problem, historian says.

Lizard Fire firefighters Firefighters battle the Lizard Fire on a smoky hillside, 2017.
Wyoming Hotshots via inciweb.nwcg.gov

Bigger, hotter wildfires — and more of them — are becoming the new normal, and a combination of climate change, subpar fire management and budget limitations are to blame.

With 8.5 million acres burned so far, 2017 could prove a major year for U.S. wildfires. And it’s only going to get worse, as climate change continues to intensify warming and drying trends, says an October 2017 National Wildlife Federation report.

Steve Pyne, a fire historian at Arizona State University, said we’ve known for years what to do, but lack an urgent social push — and the political will.

“People are interested in using fires — these recurring tragedies — to advance some other agenda, or to hold it hostage for some other purpose. And we’re not really getting serious about fires," said Pyne.

The report calls for addressing a massive forest restoration backlog and updating federal fire budgets standards.

Arizona Science Desk
This story is from the Arizona Science Desk, a collaborative of the state's public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Arizona Science Desk.
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