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Western Governors Ask For Change In How Congress Pays For Fighting Wildfires

Ben Margot / AP

Smoke rises from a wildfire on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 near Calistoga, Calif.

Ben Margot / AP

An increasing number of wildfires in recent years has governors in the West pushing for more federal money to help fight them.

This requires changes to the way Congress does its wildfire budgeting.

"The urgency is so strong given the fire that we've had this year throughout the West," said Scott Pattison, the CEO of the National Governors Association.

Pattison said the formula used to calculate fire fighting needs is antiquated because it uses a 10-year rolling average. But the number of fires is growing at a rate that outpaces that calculation. As a result, money is shifted from prevention to suppression.

"So, we're in a situation right now where we really, really need Congress to act and change an outdated formula so that we can make sure that we're spending money on preventing fires rather than playing catch-up," Pattison said.

To encourage Congress, Pattison's association sent a letter to leaders of both houses on Wednesday, signed by a bipartisan group of governors from California, Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming.

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