State locates extra fire funds |

State locates extra fire funds

CARSON CITY (AP) – With a usual funding source threatened, the Guinn administration has turned up $9.2 million in another account that can be used to help cover the state’s costs in the event of major range and forest fires in Nevada this summer.

Last month, after state and federal officials said the danger of such fires would be high this summer, Gov. Kenny Guinn expressed concern that there might not be enough money in the state budget to battle those blazes.

But Guinn’s budget chief, Andrew Clinger, then found the previously unnoticed disaster account in the state’s $5.7 billion biennial budget and got a state attorney general’s opinion that it could be used to cover firefighting costs.

“This will give us some breathing room,” Clinger said in discussing the fund, which was started in 1997 with $4 million but hadn’t previously been tapped for fire expenses.

The legal opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General Randal Munn, said Guinn could declare a disaster to gain access to the account. The governor would need approval from the state Board of Examiners, which he heads, and from the Legislative Interim Finance Committee.

The disaster fund can be used for “any emergency that saves lives, protects public health or public property,” Clinger said. “This pretty well opens it up.”

The Forestry Division, the major state agency responsible for controlling range and forest fires, gets $1 million annually for fire suppression. But the division needed an extra $2.5 million last summer to cover its costs.

That money came from a $12 million emergency fund administered by the lawmaker’s IFC. But that fund, the usual source of emergency cash for government agencies, could be down to about $50,000 by July 1.

Last winter’s heavy rains contributed to strong vegetation growth throughout the state, increasing the fire danger this summer. After Guinn expressed concern that there might not be enough money available in the legislative fund to carry the state through the summer, some suggested that a special session of the Legislature might have to be convened to allocate money if a major fire occurred.

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