A federal audit said the U.S. Forest Service should let more wildfires burnunchecked and should demand that state and local governments pay a bigger shareof the $1 billion annual cost of fighting wildfires.The audit also said that homeowners need to take more steps to protect theirhomes. Federal firefighters spend about $500 million a year defending homesbuilt in areas where local governments have allowed developers to build inwooded areas.
The audit finds that because the Forest Service does so much work defendinghomes, the efforts actually let homeowners off the hook when it comes topreparing for fire season and taking responsibility for their property.
The audit also finds the Forest Service needs to better understand the rolewildfires have in keeping forests healthy. Experts need to be on hand to decidewhich fires should be left to run their natural course to prevent a build-up ofundergrowth and fuels.