Whenever anyone is placed in charge of anything, making sure the place doesn't burn down has got to be among the most important tasks.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior have been spending ever larger portions of their ever-tightening budgets on fighting fires that occur in the forests and range lands they are responsible for. The firefighting budget not kept up with the need, and for the past couple of decades those agencies have had to borrow from and never repay accounts that were supposed to pay for all kinds of other operations and projects just to keep everything from burning up.
The Forest Service, for example, notes that it spent only about 13 percent of its total budget on firefighting back in 1991. This year, it expects to spend half of its $5 billion just on efforts to keep more trees, plants, animals and encroaching buildings from going up in flames.