State Fire Crews Ready for Additional Blazes

We're heading into a dry Fourth of July weekend up and down the state of California. In June, which usually isn't much of a fire month, more than a thousand fires burned in Northern California. So what resources remain to throw at any blazes that break out in Southern California this weekend? KPCC's Julie Small looks at what California's doing to meet the challenge.

Julie Small: There's still plenty of muscle to throw at fires that break out in Southern California. So says Ruben Grijalva. He's the head of the state's fire authority, Cal Fire.

Ruben Grijalva: If the fires are in the north like they are right now, our southern region will send units up north to help. But they don't empty out all of their fire stations in doing so. They have to maintain a certain number of reserves to be able to handle the day to day calls.

Small: Cal Fire's southern contingent sent 101 fire engines up north. But that's only about a third of the fire truck fleet.

Grijalva: That means 65% of our resources are still available in Southern California.

Small: As are 65% of the ground crews and more than half the bulldozers. Forty-one other states have contributed some resources to fighting the fires in Northern California. And as far as paying what it costs to carry on that fight...

H.D. Palmer: Under the governor's emergency declaration, the state has the authority to spend what it needs to be spent in the absence of a budget.

Small: H.D. Palmer with the state's finance department says California blew through 82 million in emergency dollars budgeted for the fiscal year that just ended. The governor can still draw down emergency money if he needs to. Palmer says he can do it even if the state lawmakers haven't passed a budget.

Palmer: That doesn't mean the tankers are grounded. That doesn't mean the fire trucks aren't rolling. That doesn't mean the hand crews are going to stop working. We're going to keep hitting these fires as hard as we can and we will commit whatever resources are necessary to makes sure that the costs of fighting these fires is covered in the budget.

Small: So far, the state's spent about $400 million fighting the Northern California fires.

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