Letter: Impact offset by reimbursement
Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Feb. 10 Columbian story "Overtime puts squeeze on local cities' budgets" is misleading in regards to the impact wildland firefighting has on local budgets. The majority of overtime costs for wildland firefighting are reimbursed by the state to the local jurisdictions (Washington State Mobilization Plan). The state reimburses local jurisdictions for the firefighters that get deployed to wildfires and also pays for any back-fill (overtime) staffing that is required to fill the void. The state also pays for any apparatus and equipment that is sent out with the firefighter(s). While the reimbursement for wages is "pass through" money, the dollars for vehicles and equipment is a bonus to the local budgets rather than a burden.
Additionally, it is more cost effective for the state to "rent" these resources on an as-needed basis than maintaining a large, full-time, seasonal firefighting force of their own. Bottom line, the system that is in place is a win-win. The state is taking advantage of a more cost-effective way to manage fires, and local jurisdictions' budgets are not negatively impacted, indeed, they often can realize a significant positive impact by contracting with the state.