Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Busy Calif. fire season drains resources; budget - News10.net

SACRAMENTO - California's fire season has been a fierce one. So far this year, the Golden State has had more than 4,200 wildfires. This time last year, there were about half as many.

Fires up and down the Golden State consumed an exceptional amount of resources compared to past years.

The worst has yet to come. In Southern California -- many of the hairiest fires erupt in September or October. It's also an uphill battle for crews. Because of budget cuts, there are 700 fewer seasonal firefighters this year.

The big question, how can California continue to fight all these fires?

California set aside nearly $93 million to fight wildfires through next June. But, the state has already spent two-thirds of that money and it's only seven weeks into the the fiscal year.

The Governor's Budget Spokesman said if the costs exceed what's in the budget, there's no reason to worry.

"The planes are still going to fly. The tankers are still going to go. The hand crews are still working the lines. There will be no shortage or inability to hit those fires hard as soon as they come up," said the governor's budget spokesman, H.D. Palmer. "We have the ability to tap into the state budget reserve, the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties."

Besides the rainy day fund, there's another $30 million that will come from a new annual firefighting fee that rural property owners will pay.

As for manpower, when wild land fires seriously draw down resources, Cal Fire said it can bring in firefighters from other states. Overall, Cal Fire says its ability to respond to fires will not be affected.

By Suzanne Phan, sphan@news10.net

Twitter: @suzannephan


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