But while Perry complains about the feds’ response, he and Texas lawmakers have also been called to task for huge cuts to state firefighting resources passed earlier this year. The two-year budget that took effect last Thursday includes a 75 percent slash to volunteer fire departments — from $30 million to $7 million — and a one-third cut to the Texas Forest Service. State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said this year’s fires near the capital city underscore the need to better fund the emergency-services districts stretched thin at the outskirts of Texas’ growing cities.And in case all the denialists legislators want to pass the buck and attempt to not accept at least partial blame:
Texas’ 879 volunteer departments are the first line of defense against wildfires for much of the state. The forest service, with 230 firefighters and 15 trucks, provides statewide support. After that, help comes from the federal government and other states.
In fact, the Texas firefighting force that’s battling flames right now is a result of a beefed-up budget approved by legislators in 2009, after the forest service succeeded in convincing lawmakers it was a wise investment. In 2008, Texas was coming off another serious drought, and a wildfire season two years earlier that required huge federal assistance including $34 million in FEMA grants.And in case Parry thinks this is just a one time thing, keep in mind:
In a funding request for 2010-2011, Texas Forest Service directors made a strong case for a bigger up-front investment from the state. “National mobilization costs 3-4 times per unit (a firefighter, a dozer) as it does to have our own state resources,” directors wrote, and take longer to arrive. “It takes three to five days to mobilize out-of-state resources. Our urgent resource requests could be efficiently alleviated if we had adequate state resources to rapidly attack and keep wildfires from turning into large, complex, multiple-day events.”
“We have examples of communities being burned because the state did not have enough resources,” directors wrote. The legislature responded with a $15 million bump in forest service funding, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in April.
This year, though, lawmakers rolled back the forest service budget, mostly by cutting its funding for grants that help volunteer fire departments buy new equipment.
Texas’ drought is no temporary arrangement, though, and the ongoing urban sprawl will ensure homes keep crawling farther out into wildfire territory.Yeah, I call this guy an idiot, and I think rightly so. It's his kind of anti-reality based fantasy thinking that will drag this country into third-world status faster than anything else.
But thanks to cuts made this year by the Legislature, when those fires start up next year, and the year after that, Texas’ volunteer fire departments will head out to battle those flames with the same trucks and gear damaged in this year’s fires.