Down in southeast Georgia, the town of Ludowici is threatened by wildfires – one of several blazes cooking in the area. About 300 residents have been evacuated.
On Feb. 28, Robert Farris, head of the Georgia Forestry Commission, went before a House panel and testified about the impact of a 31 percent reduction in his budget since mid-2008.
You can watch his entire testimony before an economic development subcommittee here, but here are a few slices of a rough transcript:
”We’re estimating a $650,000 reduction in federal funds. Eighty-nine percent of those funds are fire-control funds….The forestry commission has been restructuring to meet the economic crisis. Since the first of ’09, we’ve eliminated state funding for 94 positions.
“Forty-nine of those have been fire control positions. We’ve closed 16 fire control offices statewide. We’ve expanded supervisor span of control, going 12 districts down to six districts….We’re reducing fire suppression vehicles and fire suppression equipment by 50 – 21 bulldozers, 29 fire control vehicles.
“….…Our capacity to meet the demands for an above-normal season haven’t been tested since 2007 due to the mild nature of our fire seasons….
“The forestry commission and the National Agency Coordinator Center is projecting an above-normal fire season for 2011. And even though we are just now entering into the jaws of the fire season, these numbers are showing to be true….We’ve lost 82 more acres than our normal five-year average. Georgia’s had over 5,000 fires that have burned 23,000 acres plus already in FY ’11.
“As of last week, in a seven-day period, our GFC rangers suppressed 673 wildfires. In a seven-day period. Those fires burned nearly 5,000 acres. We’ve experienced eight citizen-related fatalities, two fatalities in the last two weeks.”
Here’s how Farris wrapped up:
”….We’ve lost 89 homes, lost or damaged, to fires this year….And again, we’re just now entering the real fire season. Here in the past two weeks we’ve called on the National Guard to assist….We’re pulling inmates out of prisons…We’re contacting all of our retirees, begging them to come in and help us…A little over a week ago, I was on a bulldozer, fighting a fire.
“I have to advise you today that these additional cuts will endanger our forests, our property and our lives across the state.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider