Amid state of emergency, Florida Forest Service could face millions in budget cuts this year

Jason Rantala reports. 4/10/2017

BRYCEVILLE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency over wildfire dangers for the state of Florida.

Meanwhile, First Coast News has learned that the state service in charge of handling the wildfires could see a major budget cut. According to the Governor's 2017-18 budget posted online, the Florida Forest Service's budget could be cut by $50 million.

It's the first state of emergency in Florida since 2011, but how will the Florida Forest Service be effected later this year?

Annaleasa Winter with the Florida Forest Service said the state of emergency, initiated Tuesday, will provide all the resources needed to attack wildfires for 60 days.

There is a 13-state agreement across the southeastern United States that allows those states, including Florida, to share resources. This state of emergency activates that agreement.

The number of funds provided just depends on what's needed. But what about Scott's proposed cuts of around $50 million to the forest service, what will that do?

Most significant cuts would go toward replacement equipment. Winter said she's not worried because they've always received the funding needed in the past.

"What's happened in the past, is the Florida Forest Service has always gotten the tools and resources that we need to do our job, so we wouldn't be too worried at this point, especially with the type of fire activity that we're seeing right now; I couldn't see where there would be any cuts to our budget," said Winter.

Scott's press secretary sent us this statement after a request for comment:

"Governor Scott appreciates the hard work of firefighters across our state and thanks them for their constant dedication to keeping Floridians safe. Fully funding the important, lifesaving mission of these firefighters is Governor Scott's top priority. That is why the Governor used his executive authority to ensure all needs associated with combating fires will be covered."

We could see dangerous fire conditions through July, Winter said. She strongly advises against burning until we start getting our summer rains.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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