WASHINGTON (B)--The wildfires raging across the western United States have cost $300 million to fight--roughly $15 million per day--with the prospect that fire crews could be battling western scrub and forest fires for another 30 to 45 days, senior USDA and Forest Service officials said.

That is almost as much as the $340 million that an entire typical firefighting season would cost, USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources Jim Lyons said.

Lyons told reporters at a news conference Aug. 2 that money was "not an issue yet," but the Forest Service's firefighting resources were "stretched thin" combating wildfires that have blackened over 3.5 million acres in eight western states.

The Forest Service would be working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to secure additional funds for firefighting operations as well as for flood and landslide prevention in the fall and winter, when rain returns to much of the west, Lyons said.

Historically, Lyons said that the Forest Service has been "fortunate" that Congress has always provided additional assistance following severe fire seasons such as this one.

The Forest Service was working with Canadian ground and air crews, and has made arrangements to contact Mexico and Australia for additional firefighting assistance, Lyons said. Over 15,000 firefighters from 46 states are at work trying to contain hundreds of fires across the western U.S.

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