Fire season heats up: Trump administration threatens to cut state firefighting funding

CBS47 Investigates

The hot summer temperatures are just around the corner and with it comes the threat of another extreme wildfire season. Now the Trump administration is threatening to cut millions in federal money for California fire departments.

CALFire covers about 33 million acres of land in the state, but because 60 percent of the state’s forested land is owned by the federal government. 

So when wildfires hit, CALFire and local departments help battle the flames.

But how California bills the United States Forest Service when it fights fires on federal land is now at the center of yet another conflict between the state and Trump administration. 
  
“This is the result of the forest service failing to pay local government fire departments in a timely manner,” said Brian Marshall, with the California Office of Emergency Services. 

The Forest Service owes California about $9.3 million for the 2018 fire season.

Now, the Forest Service notified California it wants to change the terms of a contract spelling out how the state bills for the services.

Marshall says,”Based on discussions, this new billing process could become extremely burdensome to local government fire departments.” 

California firefighters say the changes come after a federal audit of the U.S. Forest Service showed it was slow to pay out nearly half of it’s contracts. 

But now, the federal government claims California has over billed the federal government. 

“A local government fire department does not budget to respond to US Forest service, local governments have paid their firefighters for this work but have not seen the reimbursement,” says Marshall.

The contract between the federal government and California firefighters expires at the end of this year. 

But CALFire wants the public to know when the bell sounds they will respond and work out the money later.

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