/ Modified jul 11, 2013 4:20 p.m.

Officials: Government's Response to Wildfires Not Affected Yet

Obama administration says this year's budget cuts haven't harmed ability to fight fires.

Obama administration said Thursday that the automatic budget cuts, or "sequester," have not yet affected the government's ability to fight wildfires, The Associated Press reported.

In the beginning of July, AP reported that this year's budget cuts came in the tens of millions of dollars from the federal government's funds for battling wildfires. Such grand reductions meant less firefighters, and a possible loss of programs designed to prevent future fires.

The U.S. Forest Service's yearly $2 billion firefighting budget was reduced by 5 percent, which resulted in 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines than last year, agency officials said. Also, the $37.5 million cut from the U.S. Department of the Interior reflected in the loss of 100 seasonal firefighter positions, department officials said.

The national budget cuts have affected various federal programs, as part of President Barack Obama's deficit-reduction plan. The reductions are expected to cut $1.2 trillion from federal spending over the upcoming decade, AP said.

AP reported that congressional aides said that because of the sequester, the Fire Service’s suppression fund, which pays for overtime and other costs of fighting wildfires, was cut from $538 million this year to $510 million. The service also faced a $50 million cut in its fire preparedness budget, the fund used to hire firefighters and buy equipment.

Officials said the budget cuts had no direct impact on the 100 Hotshot crews around the country. While many of them are financed and trained by the Fire Service, a handful, such as the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew from Prescott, Ariz., are run locally, AP reported.

Thursday, the Agriculture Department's Jim Hubbard, and the Interior Department's James Douglas told a House subcommittee hat the cuts reduced the seasonal workforce and administrative expenses like travel and supplies.

But they warned that cuts could jeopardize prevention efforts and preparedness in the future.

Their comments come as the cuts take fuller effect on federal government agencies, and merely 11 days after 19 firefighters died while trying to control the deadly Yarnell fire.

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