According to KVUE (Austin ABC News affiliate) the state of Texas, with Rick Perry as governor, cut funding for volunteer fire departments from thirty million a year to just seven million. Volunteers reportedly make up about 80 percent of the firefighters in the state, and about ninety percent of the first responders for wildfires.
It wasn’t only volunteer fire departments that experienced cuts, however. The Texas Forest Service, also was faced with extensive budget cuts. In May it was reported they might lost $34 million in funding.
Yet the Forest Service is very involved in supporting the volunteer fire departments with training, equipment and grants. According to Reuters, the Texas Forest Service since 2002 has provided:
- 44,000 sets of protective clothing,
- 1,200 fire engines
- training of about 34,000 firefighters.
No reasonable person would say the funding cuts caused the fires. It does appear they might have contributed to the duration and therefore the total amount of damage, simply due to the reduced support for firefighting activities.
One source says over 1,600 homes have been lost and over 120,000 acres have experienced fire in the recent situation. This year in Texas, they reportedly have been over 18,000 fires impacting 3.5 million acres. There is so much smoke from the fires it can actually be seen from space. Astronaut Mike Fossum took the photo above, and posted it on Twitter.
Drought and wildfires are believed to be connected to climate change by many scientists. Because Governor Perry is running to be President of the United States, it is very important to be clear on his view of what is causing climate change. He says scientific research on the matter is inconclusive, and has been subject to data manipulation so researchers can receive more
“The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just, is nonsense. … Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.” (Source: Discovery)
Because of the link between drought, wildfires and climate change, it seems reasonable to say that climate change is part of the very cost of natural disaster damages. So ignoring climate change in the future, is likely to carry a very high price tag, though the Governor seems to repeatedly parrot the false notion that protecting the environment actually hurts the economy.
Image Credit: Mike Fossum