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Calif. Has Used Up 80 Percent Of Its Wildfire Budget

Cooler temperatures are helping firefighters gain control of some stubborn California wildfires. But state officials say strong winds may create some new challenges for fire crews this week.

Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says the state’s two large Ventura and San Bernardino counties are now fully contained, despite hot weather over the weekend.

Forecasters are predicting cooler temperatures for the rest of the week. But Berlant says the winds are kicking up too, and that has firefighters concerned.

“We actually have fire weather watches throughout the Sacramento Valley and also for the eastern portions of southern California,” says Berlant. “The eastern side of San Bernardino, Inyo, Mono Counties, and even a red flag warning for Lassen and Modoc Counties. So we’re still in the heat of fire season.”

Berlant says late September and October are typically when the largest and most volatile wildfires spark up in California. But, will there be enough money in state coffers if more devastating fires develop? Department of Finance spokesman, HD Palmer, says a big chunk of the $182 million budgeted for fighting wildfires has been used so far.

“The Station Fire in Southern California has used quite a bit of money,” says Palmer. “And, also some of the larger fires in Santa Cruz County early in the summer have run up the tab as well. So of that since July 1, we have spent $144 million on emergency wild land fire suppression costs.”

Palmer says if this year’s firefighting expenses go over the top, then the state will begin dipping into it’s $500 million reserve. That’s the so-called “rainy day” fund that Governor Schwarzenegger created when he used his line-item veto authority in July to cut spending for some programs, so there would be money available for fiscal emergencies.

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