Business & Economy

Fire officials warn budget cuts may affect emergency response

Fire officials are warning Southland cities and towns that budget cuts may affect emergency response. KPCC's Molly Peterson says that's one reason they're asking people to clear out when a wildfire approaches their neighborhoods.

Molly Peterson: On a hillside near a community center in Diamond Bar, fire officials showed off water-dropping helicopters hitting targets. A hand crew sawed and clawed up a hillside as it would to create fire breaks in a real event.

State, federal and local fire officials all are on hand to endorse this season's public campaign – called Ready, Set, Go. The goal is to get people to prepare their houses and then leave early in the event of a fire.

Chiefs from Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties said that the way people prepare for fire season matters more now that lower local revenues and the state budget deficit are squeezing government services. L.A. County has frozen hiring for non-emergency staffing, and every fire district reports less money for what's called mutual aid – cooperation between counties out when a fire hits.

Local fire officials and fire unions have lobbied Sacramento to minimize cuts. Now they're asking people who live in wildland areas to help them handle hot dry weather and the risk of fire.