Bulletin Staff Report

As communities across the country brace for another potentially explosive wildfire season, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, is pushing forward with legislation aimed at thinning overcrowded forests that have become tinderboxes for out of control wildfires.

Merkley’s Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act, a bill first introduced in 2018, would create a $1 billion fund for the U.S. Forest Service to speed up projects aimed at reducing catastrophic wildfires, according to a press release Wednesday from the senator. The bill will also empower federal agencies to work with local communities to prepare for wildfires.

Out-of-control wildfires have increased in scale and destruction in recent years — in 2017 more than 71,000 wildfires burned 10 million acres nationwide, the second largest figure on record in terms of acreage. Another nine million acres burned last year.