US Forest Service Researcher Studies Firefighting Decisions as Costs Escalate

In 1995, the US Forest Service spent 16 percent of its total budget on fighting fires. Today, it’s 52 percent and growing. What’s changed?

“Everything,” said Matthew Thompson, a research forester who works at the agency’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, Colorado. “The length of the fire season, more people on the landscape to start fires or to be impacted by them, more community interest in the relation between managing fires and protecting lives, property, and natural resources, and more media interest partly because there is so much more media today, including social media.”