LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — California is heading into the peak of fire season, however much of this year's federal money to battle wildfires has already been spent.
The U.S. Forest Service has reportedly spent its entire wildfire-fighting budget, nearly $1 billion, and was forced to transfer $600 million from other projects to keep their water-dropping planes in the air.
"This is really the closest you're going to get in combat in the United States. While it's certainly thrilling, it's a uniquely risky mission," said Lt. Col. Bryan Allen, of the California Air National Guard, as he flew a C130 plane over this week's Yosemite wildfire.
The budget dilemma could prove disastrous for residents in mountain communities such as La Canada Flintridge, which was devastated by the 2009 Station fire.
Fire officials say the hot, dry conditions seen in recent years has caused fire season to last two months longer. They say fires are consuming more acreage than ever before.
And to make matters worse, a new report released by the Government Accountability Office warns there are less large aircraft available for firefighting; a decade ago, there used to be 44 and now there are eight, because of old, outdated planes and several crashes.
That's not something Southern California residents living in high-risk areas want to hear.
"I just called a friend who lives up near Yosemite when I saw on the news that the fire had tripled at that point up there, so I think it has to be a top priority. We have to make the funds available somehow from someplace else...we can't burn up," said homeowner Marsha Getchell.
for more features.