Obama: Brace for rough wildfire season out West

 

President Obama warned governors of western states that an extended drought heading into wildfire season could lead to devastating destruction this summer, and he drew their attention to federal efforts to limit the damage.

"Due to the drought affecting the western part of the country, the wildfire season in some parts of the West has begun earlier and is expected to last longer than usual," the administration said in a statement.

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In a video teleconference from the White House, Obama and top advisers briefed governors on the administration's outlook for the current fire season, as well as efforts to modernize firefighting equipment and techniques in Western states.

"The President expressed his commitment to working closely with the governors as they deal with fires and their devastating impacts," the White House said.

Obama also looked to rally support for his plan to change how wildlife suppression is funded by the federal government. Under the president's proposal, severe fire activity, wildfires near urban areas, and abnormally active fire seasons would be funded outside discretionary budget cups, similar to other natural disasters.

And, the White House said, Obama outlined concerns he had about the impact of climate change on wildfires.

"The president stated that the federal government will continue to look for ways to effectively partner with state and local governments, and that he looked forward to continuing to engage with the governors as they prepare their states for the impacts of a changing climate," the White House said.

Last week, the administration unveiled sweeping new regulations on existing coal power plants in a bid to reduce the effects of climate change.

The discussion with the bipartisan group of eight governors was a continuation of a similar meeting held in February at the White House. Administration officials participating in the meeting included Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas J. VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, presidential counselor John Podesta, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and counterterrorism czar Lisa Monaco.