Federal money beefs up Nevada fire budget
CARSON CITY – The federal government issued a declaration Tuesday effectively quadrupling the amount of money Nevada has to fight three major wildland fires burning in the northern half of the state.
Emergency Management Director Frank Siracusa said the fire management assistance grants allow the state to apply for 75 percent of the cost of fire suppression.
“There’s no dollar amount,” he said. “Once they approve the grant, the number floats until we actually see how the costs come in. That absorbs 75 percent of the cost of fire suppression and that’s a major plus for us.”
He said that is especially important since the only emergency account the state has to pay for fire suppression this year is the Disaster Relief Fund.
According to Director of Administration Andrew Clinger, that fund had $9.62 million in it as of Tuesday morning.
“With all these fires burning, $9.62 million doesn’t go very far with the price of fuel and cost of operating those bombers and helicopters,” he said.
Those costs – particularly the price of fuel – have increased significantly in the past year. Diesel for fire trucks and pumpers is hovering around $3 a gallon and Jet-A fuel, essentially filtered kerosene for the turbine-powered aircraft and helicopters which bombard the fires with retardant, costs $3.42 a gallon at the air tanker base in Minden.
Gov. Kenny Guinn on Tuesday proclaimed a state of emergency, which opens the door to spend money from the Disaster Relief Fund.
Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., said federal financial assistance has been authorized for the Suzie fire in Elko County, the Oregon fire in Washoe and the Linehan Fire Complex in Lyon and Storey counties.
He and Guinn thanked federal emergency management officials for their quick response to the state’s plea for help, noting the governor requested the money on Monday. Guinn said the rapid response was reassuring, especially since the fire season has just begun.
“This money is crucial to the safety of northern Nevadans and their property,” said Gibbons.
The federal grants also give the governor some hope of avoiding a special legislative session – the only way to provide more money for firefighting once the Disaster Relief money is gone. He has said in the past he would do everything possible to pay for fire suppression and other emergencies without calling on the Legislature, but that it might not be avoidable if the state suffers a bad fire season.