Each year, the state has to pay the bills after the fact for the summer forest fire season on state lands, and the amount depends on the severity and location of the fires as well as the acreage that burns. Today, legislative budget writers paid this year’s bill: $21.5 million. About 350 fires burned on land protected by state agencies, down from 445 last year, but the firefighting costs and acreage burned were much higher: 68,675 acres burned this year, up from just 6,473 last year, when the firefighting cost was $4.4 million. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said, “Philosophically it would be nice to do a little more management and a little less firefighting, but we burn the acres and we need to pay the bills.” Her motion passed unanimously.
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