May 5, 2014 8:19 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Feds face budget woes heading into wildfire season

SONOITA - Continued dry conditions in Southern Arizona have fire officials on edge while the U.S. Forest Service is worried about running out of money.

When crews from the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District battled the O'Donnell Fire, they relied heavily on help from the feds for air support to contain the 600-acre fire.

"The support from the federal agencies is priceless. It is truly what protects our communities," said Fire Chief Joseph De Wolf of the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District.

The fed's fleet of air tankers remains sub-par and undersized -- and it could be a year before improvements are seen.

"Of course the more fire you have on the ground, the more resources become limited. We have always been able to receive what we need to do our jobs suppressed the fire," De Wolf said.

The feds are also dealing with budget woes -- with a $470 million dollar shortfall for fighting wildfires that will likely be borrowed from fire prevent projects such as controlled burning.

Donal Irving and his wife live in a home carved out of a Sonoita hillside. They have lived there for 22 years and are fully aware of the fire dangers in the area.

Irving said he relies on federally-funded programs that helps folks prepare against wildfires, including cleaning up low lying branches on his property.

"The view from here is what sold us on the place, I would hate to see a fire rage through here," Irving said looking at the scenic view his house overlooks.


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