Wildfire costs straining California firefighting budget; Schwarzenegger asks for federal help

SACRAMENTO, California - The costs to fight the wildfires raging through California are adding up quickly for the cash-strapped state.

SACRAMENTO, California - The costs to fight the wildfires raging through California are adding up quickly for the cash-strapped state.

The state has spent $106.5 million of its $182 million emergency firefighting fund - just two months into the fiscal year, Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said. The budget was increased this year from $69 million in 2008-09 to more accurately reflect annual firefighting costs, he said.

California has also applied for six grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help fight fires.

If they are approved, the federal government would reimburse California for 75 per cent of the costs to contain and put out those fires, said Kelly Huston, assistant secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency.

The grants only apply to extraordinary wildfires that force local and state governments to incur large costs, "because of the magnitude of the fire and the threat to life and property," Huston said.

President Barack Obama has said he would do what he could to help state and local governments.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that White House is receiving regular updates on the wildfires, and will continue to monitor the situation.

Gibbs said Obama and first lady Michelle Obama send their condolences to the families of two Los Angeles County firefighters who died battling one of the fires over the weekend.

 
 
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