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Just when the big Santa Cruz mountain fire died down, another further north started up. When it was under control another near Watsonville began. 500 people evacuated. Highway 5 shut down.

“A series of fires burned 300-500 acres north of Watsonville on Friday afternoon, chasing 400 people from their homes and closing a 5-mile stretch of northbound Highway 1 in a scene that one witness called apocalyptic. ”

Watsonville Fire

And of course, with so many able-bodied off fighting a war, the lack for fighting fires is getting close to pretty damned scary.

The number of employed Forest Service firefighters is 8.5 percent below the 4,432 seasonal workers authorized for Region 5, which includes California, Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, according to Feinstein.

She [Senator Feinstein] also expressed concern that only 186 of the agency’s 276 engines were available to respond to fires and that a new C-130J aircraft will not be available this year for air tanker duty.

The vacancies come at a time when the economic impact of soaring gas prices is being felt throughout the economy, including the firefighting budget. There has been less money available for firefighter training in California, which is facing a budget deficit of some $15 billion.

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