State chas­tises U.S. over wildfires tab

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

LOS AN­GE­LES — Cal­i­for­nia’s emer­gency ser­vices di­rec­tor has fired off a sharply worded let­ter to the U.S. For­est Ser­vice that said the agency had stiffed lo­cal gov­ern­ments $18 mil­lion for fight­ing wildfires on fed­eral lands last year and raised the prospect the state may stop pro­tect­ing na­tional forests dur­ing blazes.

“I can­not con­tinue to sup­port the de­ploy­ment of re­sources to pro­tect fed­eral land that ul­ti­mately may bank­rupt our lo­cal gov­ern­ments,” Emer­gency Ser­vices Di­rec­tor Mark Ghi­lar­ducci said in the let­ter sent Mon­day to For­est Ser­vice Chief Thomas Tid­well.

The dis­pute stems from long-stand­ing com­mit­ments that co­or­di­nate and re­im­burse fire­fight­ers for work on fed­eral lands. Nearly half the land in Cal­i­for­nia is fed­er­ally owned, and the great­est per­cent­age of that is in na­tional forests.

Wildfires are fought with a com­bi­na­tion of lo­cal, state and fed­eral fire­fight­ers work­ing un­der mu­tual aid agree­ments that often send them hun­dreds of miles from home. Mas­sive en­camp­ments that sprout up at big wildfires in­clude bean coun­ters who tally the costs of fight­ing fires and fig­ure out how to re­im­burse the many agencies help­ing out.

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