Friday, February 20, 2009

California late on last years strike team wildland fire bills

State owes fire department $213K

The Petaluma Fire Department has received more than $80,000 from the state for providing assistance to five wild land fires in other California counties in 2008, but has not yet received the additional $213,000 that it is owed.

The department has received three payments, which cover the costs of strike team members for fires in Humboldt, Lake and Napa counties. A payment of $26,000 was received on Oct. 8, followed by payments of $28,000 on Jan. 12 and $27,000 on Jan. 26.

But funds have not been received for strike-team services during fires in Butte and Orange counties.

“This delay is due to the state budget problems,” said Fire Chief Larry Anderson. “It isn’t affecting our day-to-day operations in Petaluma, and we would be able to send a strike team to another location if needed.

“I would do it in a heartbeat. But we wouldn’t be able to send two teams, because we would be stretched too thin.”

The Petaluma Fire Department has not been told when to expect the remaining money, which pays the overtime salaries of strike team members, and their expenses, including fuel, food and apparatus.

Anderson explained that the fire department still is within its budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year, although the expenses have been higher than anticipated due to the participation of the strike teams.

Within Sonoma County, fire agencies supply personnel to other agencies, and don’t charge anything for their services, he said.

Several fire agencies in Sonoma County provided strike team members to help battle the flurry of wild land fires in the state in 2008, and several of these agencies have not yet been fully compensated.

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