By Miriam Raftery
File photo: Dead trees smoulder during controlled burn in San Diego’s East County
January 10, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) – Putting all San Diego County residents at higher risk of a major wildfire, winter controlled burning of two to three thousand acres in Cleveland National Forest have been put on hold due to the federal shutdown, fire officials have advised ECM news partner 10 News.
The announcement reveals the hypocrisy of the Trump administration, coming one day after President Donald Trump tweeted that he ordered FEMA to halt funds for California Wildfire victims due to forest management concerns. Trump previously claimed without substantiation that lack of forest clearing on state lands contributed to last year’s devastating fire storms, a claim the state’s top fire officials have debunked as false.
But by canceling critical prescribed burns during our short rainy season, the only time such burns are safe to conduct, the Trump administration’s actions potentially put all San Diego County residents’ lives and safety at risk since past major firestorms have stared in East County and swiftly spread westward, fueled by strong winds, dry conditions and heavy vegetation. (photo, right: smoke from previous controlled burn in East County)
Cleveland National Forest spans three counties in Southern California: San Diego, Orange and Riverside. Last year, the Holy fire started in Cleveland National Forest, charring over 23,000 acres in Riverside and Orange Counties, also injuring three firefighters and destroying 18 buildings.
Firefighters are still positioned for emergency response should a wildfire erupt, Stephen Fillmore, acting fire chief for the Cleveland National Forest, says.
Last year, the Holy Fire tore through the Cleveland National Forest, scorching more than 23,000 acres.
The shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. Trump still refuses to sign any budget that does not contain over $5 billion for a border wall, money that neither a Republican-controlled Congress nor now, the Democratic-controlled House have deemed necessary among many competing priorities for funding. Talk of bringing a compromise measure up for a vote, such as a budget that might include some increased border security funds as well as protection for young immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been squelched by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has refused to allow any such measure to be voted on, even if there are enough votes for passage.