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USDA official: Fund wildfire fighting like other disasters

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Flames burn in the remains of a home destroyed by the Butte Fire on Saturday in Mountain Ranch

POLE MOUNTAIN, Wyo. >> A top Obama administration official is calling for the next federal spending bill to establish a new way to pay for fighting wildfires.

Wildfires have become so severe and widespread in recent years that fighting them is eating up more than half of the U.S. Forest Service budget.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Robert Bonnie said Tuesday that classifying severe wildfires as natural disasters for funding purposes would make it easier for the Forest Service to allocate funds to prevent such fires.

Bonnie made the remarks while touring a ponderosa pine forest in southeast Wyoming.

State and Medicine Bow National Forest officials are working together there to reduce the risk of a major fire. They plan to use a combination of heavy equipment and prescribed burns to thin out vegetation.

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