Federal Lands:

Wildfire Preparedness and Suppression Expenditures for Fiscal Years 1993 Through 1997

T-RCED-98-247: Published: Aug 4, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 4, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the federal land management agencies' wildfire expenditures, focusing on: (1) the amount of funds expended on wildfire preparedness and suppression activities and the types of activities covered by these expenditures; and (2) assistance provided to state firefighting efforts by the land management agencies.

GAO noted that: (1) the federal land management agencies expended about $4.4 billion on wildfire activities for fiscal years (FY) 1993 through 1997; (2) included in this amount was about $2.1 billion for preparedness activities and about $2.3 billion for wildfire suppression; (3) for both preparedness and suppression, the largest expenditure categories were personnel, and services and supplies; (4) for FY 1993 through FY 1997, the five land management agencies provided assistance to state and local firefighting efforts through cooperative agreements, provided grants valued at about $83 million, and loaned excess federal property worth about $700 million; (5) wildfire preparedness expenditures increased slightly during the reporting period because, by their very nature, they can be planned, while suppression expenditures varied greatly because they are directly related to the intensity of wildfires in a given year; and (6) for example, in FY 1996, about 20,000 wildfires burned almost 4 million acres, resulting in total wildfire suppression expenditures of about $689 million, whereas wildfire suppression expenditures declined to about $281 million in FY 1997, when only about 14,000 wildfires consumed about 2 million acres.

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