Trump Administration Backs Off Threat to Audit California Wildfire Fighting Agreement

The Woolsey fire burns homes in Malibu in November 2018. (Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Woolsey fire burns homes in Malibu in November 2018. (Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A growing dispute between the Trump administration and California firefighting agencies over millions of dollars in back pay has ended with both sides agreeing to maintain an existing cooperation agreement, according to officials.

At stake was more than $9 million of a total $72-million reimbursement request that California made of the U.S. Forest Service after helping to battle wildfires on federal lands in 2018. Those fires included the Camp fire that killed 85 people in November 2018 and the Carr fire that killed a Redding firefighter and seven others that summer.

The reimbursement total was calculated using average salary, overtime, and other expenses for all firefighters assisting on federal incidents, the California Office of Emergency Services said. That method of billing was stipulated in the California Fire Assistance Agreement in effect from 2015-2020. However, the federal government disputed the calculation earlier this year and threatened to withhold some of the payment.

Under the agreement announced Tuesday, California will continue with its current methodology. A Forest Service employee will “help with the initial review of some invoices,” the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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