BUTTE COUNTY (CBS13) — The government shutdown is keeping U.S. Forest Service employees off the clock and halting controlled-burns ahead of the next fire season.
The timing comes on the heels of the Camp Fire, and with a big spotlight on future wildfire prevention. Chico State Geography and Planning Professor Don Hankins is sounding the alarm.
“I would say definitely frustrating,” Hankins said. “Dumbfounded for sure. There’s always a bit of dismay that exists in terms of knowing what the problem is and how to address it, and then not having the resources to address it.”
Hankins specializes in controlled burns to prevent out-of-control wildfires. He says the government shutdown has left no staff to perform them on federal lands.
U.S. Forest Service dispatcher Sarah Cote works in the El Dorado National Forest.
“It is a very important time of the year for burning,” Cote said.
“If it wasn’t for the shutdown we would be doing controlled burns right now,” Cote said. “Right now we have limited staffing.”
The shutdown impacting the U.S. Forest Service comes just after President Trump toured the Camp Fire burn zone in November. He spoke to reporters at a press conference during the visit.
“There’s great people that live here,” President Trump said. “And it’s unfair to put them through this so often.”
Following that visit, he issued an executive order calling for more controlled burns on federal land. That executive order stands, only there’s now no federal staffing to carry it out.
“There’s no funding to support that work to happen right now,” Hankins said. “No funding to support that work. There’s a big irony there, I think.”