RANCHO MIRAGE - U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer expressed frustration Wednesday in an exclusive interview with The Desert Sun that the federal sequester is impacting crews' ability to fight fire at a time when climate change is increasing the number of blazes.
Boxer is scheduled to be in Riverside Thursday to meet with regional fire crews to talk about how budget cuts have affected their ability to fight wildfires.
The Rancho Mirage Democrat is slated to meet with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott; the state's Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci; Riverside County fire Chief John Hawkins; as well as other federal, state and local leaders.
"It means the fire season is coming 30 days earlier and it's ending 30 days later and we have these mindless across-the-board cuts called sequester and that's something else that has to be restored," Boxer said hours before the wind-whipped Silver Fire broke out near Poppet Flats in the San Jacinto Mountains.
"They're cutting money for firefighters when we're having more fires and more problems."
The $85 billion in budget cuts known as the federal sequester was part of a 2011 deficit-reduction measure.
They became effective earlier this year after federal leaders couldn't come to a budget deal that avoided them.
The Silver Fire and two earlier blazes in and around the Coachella Valley serve as a backdrop for Boxer's visit to Cal Fire's regional headquarters.
The Mountain Fire, sparked on July 15, burned more than 27,000 acres near Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains and forced the evacuation of several communities. The ash fell like snow across the Coachella Valley, prompting warnings about the air quality.
On Tuesday, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was shut down again for a fire that started near the upper parking lot.
By Wednesday, the tram was reopened and U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Miller said the 60-acre blaze was fully contained.
Crews nationwide have battled 29,690 wildfires this season, with 5,764 of them in California, according to Boxer's office. They've collectively burned 2.5 million acres and claimed the lives of 29 firefighters.
The Desert Sun