In the last decade, the federal government has provided California with $312 million dollars to offset the costs of fighting its wildfires. Through the FMAG system, or Federal Management Assistant Grants, state and local agencies are entitled to 75% of the costs of fighting fires, should the costs reach a certain threshold.

While the system has helped protect local budgets from incurring the heavy burden of fire suppression during active fire seasons, at least some people feel that the money discourages proactive firefighting.

Critics of the subsidies say that they allow development in areas with a high fire risk because the federal money mitigates the financial impact. Without the program, they claim, cities would be forced to honestly assess how development would be affected by fire dangers, and how their fire services could handle any threat that did arise.

From the Press Enterprise:

As tens of thousands of Californians moved into inherently fire-prone areas, the federal government paid out more than $300 million in the past decade to reimburse the state for the costs of battling flames to save homes.

By helping to pay firefighting costs, the government is creating a disincentive for communities to do more to stem the flow of people and homes into the most endangered areas, some experts and officials said.

Nowhere was the phenomenon more pronounced than in Inland Southern California, which saw both explosive growth and devastating wildfires in known fire-prone areas in the 2000s, a review of U.S. census data, state fire-threat maps and federal funding figures found. Local policymakers, meanwhile, say the prospect of reimbursement has no bearing on decisions involving development in dangerous areas.

Read the full article here.