California's wildfires aggravate budget woes
Two months into the fiscal year, the state has used more than half its firefighting budget. The LA flames appear to be spreading, but a week of firefighting may be starting to pay off.
California’s wildfires are not only burning trees – they’re burning state cash, and setting off a cascade of other problems in the state. Already, as the fires appeared to have spread in the past 24 hours, they have delayed a ballot count in two special elections.
California's wildfires are burning through state cash at an alarming rate, with the government spending more than half its annual firefighting budget just two months into the fiscal year -- even before the traditional fire season began on Tuesday.
The state's ballooning budget deficit and sharp drop in revenues resulting from the recession have forced delays in replacing aging firefighting equipment, including 40-year-old bulldozers.
The firefighting effort could face new strains if the prison system, also trying to cut costs, releases 27,000 or more low-risk inmates -- the type the firefighting agency depends on for cheap, abundant labor.
Cal Fire officials said recent budget cuts affecting their agency have not hindered firefighters' efforts to combat wildfires…
[Cal Fire Battalion Chief Julie] Hutchinson, of Cal Fire's Riverside County unit, and spokesman Bill Peters, of the San Bernardino County unit, both said budget cuts have not limited the number of firefighters or equipment that commanders are able to send to the fires."
They (budget cuts) really didn't affect this area. We get two new fire engines that we purchased last year. Our staffing is the same," Peters said.
The flames have spread over 190 square miles of forest in a week. Some 12,000 homes remained threatened as 3,600 firefighters and aircraft battle the blaze across a 50-mile line.
On Tuesday, the fires appeared to have “consumed even more territory in the last 24 hours, at times erupting in devastating fire tornadoes,” reports ABC News. ABC adds, however, that “for the first time in a week of losing ground to the flames firefighters today expressed optimism that their efforts were having an effect.”
One of the fires, in the Angeles National Forest, “forced a delay in counting ballots in two special elections Tuesday in California,”one in the 51st Assembly District, the other the 10th Congressional district, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Political junkies who planned to wait up tonight for the outcomes of two special elections are going to lose sleep, thanks to the wildfire raging in the Angeles National Forest.
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan said it will be sometime after 10 p.m. before election officials start releasing ballot counts.
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