California officials push to recover cost of wildfires

SACRAMENTO — California officials are pushing hard— some say too hard — for money to recover the costs of fighting wildfires, The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/150cEka).

For the last eight years, the state has more aggressively gone after businesses and individuals it blames for starting wildfires, but now some of those targeted are pushing back, the newspaper said.

The state's Civil Cost Recovery Program is considered such a financial success that Gov. Jerry Brown is asking lawmakers to expand the unit's staff of lawyers, fire accountants and investigators from 14 to 24, The Bee said.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials say the unit goes after people who spark wildfires, costing millions of dollars to put out. They also say cost-sharing agreements with federal and local agencies require the state to pursue money from those who start fires.

But state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber — who represents a vast rural area in far Northern California — says the state should put limits on its attempts to recover money.

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