California struggles to find funds for firefighting

Posted on Categories Uncategorized

We are seeing more and more stories about firefighters being laid off, departments cancelling or delaying orders for new apparatus, and state agencies having difficulty funding thier wildfire organizations. The San Diego Union has a lengthy article about some of the challenges facing CalFire; here is an excerpt:

Meanwhile, (Govenor Arnold) Schwarzenegger has already pared emergency services.

In San Diego County, the governor ordered $1.6 million in cuts, resulting in idling an unspecified number of seasonal firefighters. Local agencies jumped in to ensure that stations stayed open, but about 10 Cal Fire engines in the county were mothballed. On April 15, staffing will be back to full strength, according to Cal Fire.

In Butte County, a region ravaged during six weeks of lightning-ignited blazes last summer, supervisors warn they may not be able to afford to maintain the number of positions contracted with Cal Fire. Supervisors will consider cutting 23 Cal Fire positions and rotate station closings later this month.

Riverside County is also pondering cuts.

At the state level, the Emergency Management Agency, formerly the Office of Emergency Services, has issued potential layoff notices to 10 deputy and assistant chiefs, including a regional officer based in Riverside who coordinates mutual-aid fire responses in the San Diego region.

Those notices could be rescinded, depending on whether spending can be trimmed elsewhere or attrition creates more vacancies.

“They remain in effect until further notice,” said agency spokeswoman Kelly Huston.

Bill Bondshu, president of the union representing some firefighters attached to the Emergency Management Agency, fears the uncertainty will force valuable officers to look for new jobs.

“I hate to lose good people. Right now, they’re kind of scared,” Bondshu said.

Del Walters, the Cal Fire director, said his agency and the governor will battle to maintain funding for the department. The governor’s 2009-10 proposed budget sets aside $538 million in general-fund money for Cal Fire – an increase of about $7 million from the current year.


Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.