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first_imgANGELES NATIONAL FOREST – A proposal to shift a $500 million Forest Service fund reserve from firefighting to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts might not be a complete catastrophe. But the prudence of moving money from one natural disaster to another depends completely on the whim of Mother Nature. “If we have a normal fire season, there’s probably no effect,” said Cid Morgan, district ranger for the Santa Clara/Mojave Rivers district. “If we have a barn burner, it could make a difference. It’s all going to depend on what fire season is like.” U.S. Forest Service officials warn that recent cooler weather might have lulled the public – and politicians – into a false sense of security that fire season is completely over. Dan Jiron, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, said that, since the elimination of the reserve was still in the proposal stage, he could not comment, but added that incident management teams from the Forest Service were sent to the hurricane areas to assist in recovery efforts. More than 100 workers from the Angeles National Forest were temporarily reassigned, from two crews of 20 people each responding to recovery efforts, to more than 70 employees who worked distributing food and assistance to victims at various shelters and service centers. “We have $500 million in reserve from 2005 and our annual budgeted $700 million strictly for fire suppression is not endangered,” Jiron said. “The Forest Service will be able to continue its fire prevention efforts, such as thinning. That is a priority of our chief.” Congress will vote on the proposal in the coming weeks. Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “We did have several extraordinary years recently, especially in 2000, 2002 and 2003,” said Stanton Florea, fire information officer for the Angeles National Forest. “The last couple of years were closer to the 10-year average that is used to determine our needs. But we know that, in the western states, we’re still at a very high danger level. We have an active season much later in the year. It’s really hard to compare this area with the rest of the country.” President George W. Bush has proposed moving the money because 2005 hasn’t been a very bad year for fires. The reduction is the largest portion of a $2.3 billion package of cuts affecting several federal programs, including one promoting prison literacy. The plan has yet to be approved by Congress. The $500 million wildfire reserve was approved by Congress last year to augment a $700 million annual allocation for normal firefighting costs. During particularly busy fire seasons, monies have been appropriated from other federal agencies to cover costs. The 2004 set aside was intended to eliminate that practice. Agency staff members were already anticipating budget cuts even before the reserve proposal was made. Morgan is figuring on a 10 percent to 20 percent budget cut in fiscal 2006. “Somebody has to pay for Katrina and the war in Iraq,” she said. “It’s like when you’re balancing your checkbook and the transmission goes out. The money has to come from somewhere. They no longer call it borrowing from fire; it’s just a reappropriation.” last_img

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