Reporting Anjali Hemphill
In a very busy room at the Mather Air Park, California’s Emergency Management Agency is coordinating crews across the state.
Cal EMA workers are back to work more than a month early with this busy start to the fire season. Fire Branch Chief Kim Zagaras says they will have plenty of additional resources, but this already busy fire season could force the legislature to provide additional funds.
“It’s a dangerous season, the conditions are not good,” said Zagaras.
California land and homes are being eaten up by several massive wildfires burning at the same time throughout the state. It’s spreading state resources from the north end of the state all the way down south, leaving Cal EMA hard at work coordinating where to send crews for extra help.
“We regularly draw down on resources, and even California eventually can run out of resources,” said Zagaras.
The chief says the state has around 1,000 fire engine crews available to move around, with a third of them already deployed. They can also pull crews from local fire departments if they need to.
“Our general expectation is if you’re providing mutual aid, you probably shouldn’t draw down more than 25 percent of their local resources,” Zagaras said.
But California has already received help twice from FEMA to help state and local crews battling these huge blazes, and summer hasn’t even started yet. That could mean that as the fire season continues to heat up, the state will have to dig deeper to find the money to fight it.
“There are times where the state’s emergency funds, we overdraw them, the legislature needs to appropriate other budgets to come up with the money,” said Zagaras.
Cal EMA says the last time they were forced to ask the legislature to do that was in 2008.