US: Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement - - PressFrom - US
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USTrump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement

13:26  19 july  2019
13:26  19 july  2019 Source:   latimes.com

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The Trump administration is withholding wildfire assistance to California after a financial audit suggested the state was overbilling the US Forest Service. There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.

Now, the Trump administration has taken matters a step further. As California prepares for what some officials The Forest Service said in a statement that it decided to audit the agreement after receiving a letter “The audit found that the current [ California Fire Assistance Agreement ] does

Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement© Neal Waters / TNS The Camp Fire rages through the town of Paradise, Calif., in Butte County Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Dozens of businesses and home were destroyed as the fire moved faster than firefighters could react to it. (Neal Waters/Zuma Press/TNS) ** OUTS - ELSENT, FPG, TCN - OUTS **

A growing dispute between the Trump administration and California firefighting agencies over millions of dollars in back pay has ended with both sides agreeing to maintain an existing cooperation agreement, according to officials.

At stake was more than $9 million of a total $72-million reimbursement request that California made of the U.S. Forest Service after helping to battle wildfires on federal lands in 2018. Those fires included the Camp fire that killed 85 people in November 2018 and the Carr fire that killed a Redding firefighter and seven others that summer.

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday again threatened to cut off federal funds to fight "Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded that Trump 's threat "insults the memory of scores

The reimbursement total was calculated using average salary, overtime, and other expenses for all firefighters assisting on federal incidents, the California Office of Emergency Services said. That method of billing was stipulated in the California Fire Assistance Agreement in effect from 2015-2020. However, the federal government disputed the calculation earlier this year and threatened to withhold some of the payment.

Under the agreement announced Tuesday, California will continue with its current methodology. A Forest Service employee will "help with the initial review of some invoices," the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services said.

The agreement appears to have reduced tensions between state and federal officials after two years of heated exchanges.

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Trump threatened to cut California wildfire aid. He may not have the authority to follow through. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that “billions of dollars” are sent to California to help with its wildfire recovery efforts and claimed, without evidence, that the state would not need the funds if

President Trump is traveling to California to meet with individuals affected by the wildfires . The Administration has issued three Fire Management Assistance Grants to support partner States This includes over 490 personnel to support efforts to fight the Camp fire and over 90 to fight the Woolsey

The rift became public in July 2017, when Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci chastised the Forest Service in official correspondence and accused the agency of dragging its feet on reimbursing local fire agencies.

"The USFS has blatantly ignored its financial responsibility to the men and women of California who have risked their lives fighting fires to protect federal land," he wrote.

While the state eventually received the funds, President Trump began to openly criticize the state over its handling of wildfires.

In November, Trump blamed California's forest management policies for the death and destruction caused by the Camp fire, which devastated the town of Paradise. However, the blaze spread into federal lands after being sparked by electrical transmission lines owned by the utility PG&E.

Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement
Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement
Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement
Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement
Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement
Trump administration backs off threat to audit California wildfire fighting agreement
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Trump's comments were followed a week later by statements from then U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who blamed litigation-happy environmentalists for the state of California's forests, even though the majority of the forested lands in the state are owned by the federal government.

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back Sunday against President Trump 's threat to revoke federal funding if California does not There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest "Now's not the time to talk about cutting off funding," he said. "We're going to help our friends in

Trump Wildfire Tweet Sparks Backlash. President Trump ’s tweets regarding the deadly California wildfires are sparking a backlash. Here’s why. Firefighters say President Donald Trump 's threats to cut off federal payments, after he blamed the California wildfires on "gross mismanagement," are

Then, in February, the Forest Service told California it was withholding about $9 million until it got more information about the actual cost to fight the fire, down to the individual firefighter's hours and overtime. It blamed Ghilarducci for triggering the audit.

"The initial impetus for the audit was a letter sent to the Forest Service Chief from the director of California Office of Emergency Services stating that the Forest Service was failing to comply with the CFAA," the agency said in a statement.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) got involved in May when she sent a letter to federal agency heads imploring them to reconsider. Months of discussion ensued and concluded with Tuesday's agreement, which lasts through the end of the year.

"All parties remain committed to their long-standing inter-agency partnership and to providing firefighting resources using California's robust mutual aid system," state and federal officials said in a joint statement.

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