Schwarzenegger says he will revise budget to help forestry department
SACRAMENTO Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday vowed to reverse deficit-triggered budget cuts so California can field its full air-tanker and fire-engine fleets this summer.
California Department of Forestry officials recently acknowledged that a $7 million decrease in Schwarzenegger’s original budget for the agency, which he will revise next month, would have forced it to either ground a few of the fast-attack tankers in its 23-plane fleet, mothball some fire engines, or both.
“We want the full fleet (out there),” Schwarzenegger said at a Capitol news conference. “We want to protect the people from fires.”
Schwarzenegger’s comments come in the week of recent reports in this newspaper detailing the air tanker woes. The governor also said he is “concerned” about developments with the remainder of the aging fleet of big federal air tankers that can fly over populated areas. It may be grounded in the wake of yet another crash during a training mission last week.
“Yes, I am concerned,” he said. “We want to make sure it can operate as efficiently as possible.”
Schwarzenegger, who has been briefed by members of Congress on Russia’s offer to provide huge firefighting jet aircraft, said he is open to looking at the planes as U.S. tools.
Though there are numerous hurdles, the Republican governor made the remarks at a time when the Bush administration is reviewing its limited aerial firefighting options for the summer.
Many California fire officials consider the assistance of big federal air tankers essential in battling the state’s sometimes deadly wildfires.
A proponent of the Russian plane’s use in California, Tom Robinson of Global Emergency Response, a multinational disaster mitigation organization, said “this is the best opening we’ve had” and