TODAY | June 22, 2013
>>> in colorado, firefighters are trying to hold back a wildfire that threatens to destroy an entire town. the federal government is cutting back to prevent the fires. that's leaving a lot of cities and towns scrambling to do it on their own.
>> reporter: with fire crews stretched to the limit -- and lives hanging in the balance .
>> i didn't think it would be this fast.
>> it's a total loss. my chimney is the only thing left standing.
>> reporter: a burning question as another surging wildfire is forcing 400 residents of colorado to evacuate.
>> give me water.
>> reporter: u.s. taxpayers are spending more to fight fires and washington is spending less. they are proposing a 30% cut to removing dead trees and brush. look at how quickly it can fuel a fire. with less focus on prevention, the forest service is forced to spend more once the fires are already burning.
>> we have to forecast better about where we are going to hit these fires. it's a complex equation that we have to deal with now with the west fire fighting assets.
>> reporter: in 1991 , fighting fires took up 13% of the service budget. last year, it was more than 40%. in arizona, local firefighters are taking matters into their own hands using local tax dollars that voters approve, the crews from flagstaff are clearing brush reducing fuel for potential fires.
>> it's not a matter of if it will occur. it's when and where. it will be dire if we don't take action to reduce the riske.
>> reporter: not all communities have the resources. it's a burning question with no simple answer.