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Forest Service To Fight Long Fire Season Following Sequestration Cuts

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Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) protested the U.S. Forest Service's budget cuts. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) | AP

As the U.S. Forest Service takes control of the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, it faces a challenging fire season ahead, due to a dry winter, hot spring and a budget hit by sequestration cuts.

The across-the-board cuts have reduced the Forest Service budget -- $1.7 billion of which is devoted to firefighting -- by $28 million, according to The New York Times. Both the Forest Service and Department of the Interior overspent their budgets last year, but the Forest Service was hit harder by sequestration.

The agency hired less equipment and 500 fewer firefighters this year, reducing its force to 10,000.

On Monday, these Forest Service firefighters took control of battling the Arizona Yarnell Hill Fire, which killed 19 firefighters Sunday in the worst loss of wildland firefighters since 1933.

Forest fires have only gotten worse in recent decades. Global warming, development and changing firefighting practices have all led to an increase in the size of wildfires since 2000, according to The Washington Post.

In a June 28 letter, four U.S. senators called on the Obama administration to produce a plan for fire prevention and budgeting for wildfires.

"When the budgeted amount is insufficient, the agency continues to suppress fires by reallocating funds from other non-fire programs," wrote Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho). "This approach to paying for firefighting is nonsensical and further increases wildland fire costs."

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