Nebraska lawmakers are rethinking the state's approach to wildfires in the wake of massive summer blazes that threatened property, strained local budgets and disrupted businesses that rely on tourism.
The push to add firefighting resources in the most remote corners of the state comes as forestry officials warn that Nebraska may face a "new normal" of massive wildfires.
Nebraska will likely see larger and more intense "mega fires" in coming years for a variety of reasons, said Scott Josiah, director of the Nebraska Forest Service in Lincoln. Heat, drought and climate change play a role, he said, but so does the spread of eastern red cedar trees - a pine with needles and resin that are both highly flammable.
Lawmakers will confront the issue in a committee hearing this week. Senator Al Davis of Hyannis has introduced a bill that would add new resources to the state's firefighting arsenal. Davis will present his proposal, the Wildfire Control Act of 2013, to the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee on Friday. The bill is LB634.