Virginia Wildfires Drained State Funds

Two weeks into spring fire season, the Virginia Department of Forestry already has spent its entire 2008 funds for firefighting.

Spokesman John Campbell tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch that early estimates suggest the outbreak of wildfires across the state two weeks ago may have cost the department about $500,000.

He says the estimate — which includes expenses like gas and the use of helicopters — encompasses the agency’s budget for firefighting.

The 348 wildfires were fueled by high winds, and caused mostly by downed trees that hit electrical wires. The fires consumed nearly 16,000 acres and triggered Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to declare a state of emergency.

Nobody was killed in the blazes.

Forestry Department officials plan to request more funding for this year.

Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch