ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — Wildfires are no stranger in New Mexico’s territory. Now, data shows that states might not be doing enough.

A study published Wednesday showed that states aren’t budgeting nearly enough to prevent and fight wildfires.

“The number of acres burned over the last five years is 68% higher than the average over the previous four decades,” said Colin Foard, manager of the fiscal federalism initiative with The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Researchers explained wildfires are becoming more severe and expensive over time.

“As fires have grown, so has government spending on the costs associated with them. To put some numbers to that, at the federal level combined spending of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service doubled from fiscal year 2011 to 2020,” Foard said.

The study consisted of six states—Alaska, California, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Washington—and looked at how states are budgeting for wildfire costs, where those approaches aren’t quite working, and what can be done. The study found that states consistently aren’t putting enough money towards mitigating and fighting fires and that this is putting a strain on their budgets.

“Most of the states we spoke with used a backwards-looking estimate to decide how much to initially appropriate for wildfire suppression in a given year,” Foard said, “They generally look at how much a state spent fighting wildfires in the previous five to ten years and apply some sort of calculation based on that number.”

New Mexico does this as well. Foard explained, by not budgeting enough, states have to rely on emergency funds from other agencies to cover costs, and this obscures the true cost of the wildfires. This makes it harder to budget for the next natural disaster.

“If a state gets suppression help from a federal firefighting agency, or equipment from a neighboring state, the details of how much reimbursement is owed may not be resolved until years after the fire,” Foard stated.

The study also showed a consensus on how important wildfire mitigation is to keep the long-term costs of wildfires low. Despite this, the study found that often, when fires start, the costs to fight it take up the money put aside for mitigation. Researchers said states need to track spending on wildfires better.

In New Mexico, Deputy State Forester Lindsey Quam said the state typically puts aside around $3 million for wildfire mitigation each year. However, this year was one of the most expensive they’ve seen.

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“Of course, this year was an exceptional year. We did actually get the ten million on top of another seven million, so we actually almost got $20 million that we haven’t had before,” Quam explained. On top of that, “For suppression, we probably requested for emergency executive order funding we probably requested an order of around $40 million,” Quam added.

Based on the findings, researchers recommend states facing wildfire risk need to evaluate how they are budgeting for them, invest more in mitigation, and say that all levels of government need to better track and report their wildfire-related spending.