$30 million cut to Cal Fire means reduced engine staffingBy GREG WELTER - Staff Writer
Posted: 01/10/2011 09:53:46 PM PST


Click photo to enlargeA DC-10 aerial tanker assists in the battle against a blaze between Humboldt Road and the Skyway...«1»Related
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State budget is top on Butte supervisors' minds for meeting TuesdaySACRAMENTO -- Cal Fire, the state's firefighting agency, is facing a budget cut in excess of $30 million for fiscal year 2011-2012, and will trim staffing on engines from four down to three to cover most of it.
Starting in 2003, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an annual executive order bumping engine crews to four throughout the state, to meet the demands of approaching fire seasons.

H.D. Palmer, with the California State Budget Office, said studies since 2003 have shown that the wildfire containment rate in California has remained about the same using three-person crews versus four.

He said Gov. Jerry Brown insisted that, if it were to happen, crew member increases prior to fire season would have to be in the existing budget, rather than occurring by executive order.

Further savings are expected through a realignment process, Palmer said, which will place more protection services currently provided by Cal Fire into the hands of local agencies.

He said Brown plans to provide a revenue stream to local agencies by asking California voters, in June, to pass a five-year extension of the vehicle license fee and a one-cent sales tax, approved last year.

Calls to Cal Fire-Butte County officials seeking comment on local impacts were not returned Monday.

For fiscal 2009-2010, Cal Fire dealt with a $27 million budget cut.

New vehicle purchases were put on hold, pay cuts and furloughs went into effect, and the agency canceled the third year of a
contract for a DC-10 aerial tanker based in Victorville.