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California's wildfires aggravate budget woes

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California’s wildfires are not only burning trees – they’re burning state cash, and setting off a cascade of other problems in the state. Already, as the fires appeared to have spread in the past 24 hours, they have delayed a ballot count in two special elections.

Reuters reports that the fires couldn’t have come at a worse time, exacerbating a huge deficit and other woes caused by the economic downturn.

California's wildfires are burning through state cash at an alarming rate, with the government spending more than half its annual firefighting budget just two months into the fiscal year -- even before the traditional fire season began on Tuesday.
The state's ballooning budget deficit and sharp drop in revenues resulting from the recession have forced delays in replacing aging firefighting equipment, including 40-year-old bulldozers.
The firefighting effort could face new strains if the prison system, also trying to cut costs, releases 27,000 or more low-risk inmates -- the type the firefighting agency depends on for cheap, abundant labor.
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