A dire warning: When budget cuts meet wildfires

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

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35 comments Add your comment

findog

March 25th, 2011
2:27 pm

privatize
get rid of all those over paid government employee’s
call the guard out, they only get like $35 a day
just make sure we don’t lose any pulp wood

No artificial flavors

March 25th, 2011
2:37 pm

Don’t worry Jim, DCA just doled out millions in ponzi scheme employment incentive grants. Don’t let the state fool you. There is cash out the ears sitting idle in various wasteful grant accounts. We’d sure hate to use it to prevent wildfires and update our infrastructure systems. Let’s make sure we subsidize the purchases of empty buildings in the ghetto to try to lure companies. It canttake more than 15-20 years to get a bite.

jd

March 25th, 2011
2:39 pm

I guess $28k per year to risk your life is too much for you findog

GaBlue

March 25th, 2011
2:49 pm

Of course! Shouldn’t the Holy Free Market handle this via the magic of privatization? After all, if we privatize fire control, then raise the prices to prohibitive levels, the fires won’t WANT to do business here anymore, and they’ll take their scorched-earth goodies to Florida or South Carolina. Yes! And those good people of Ludowici will keep paying all their nickels and dimes in taxes and fees (they’re FEEs, not taxes… get it straight…) even though they get diddly bubkes for their money. Praise the Almighty Dollar, Lord of the Holy Free Market, Amen! (Thank goodness the people who run this state know what they’re doing.)

Idiot Locator Just Went Off

March 25th, 2011
2:51 pm

Mr. Findog is an idiot, or at least nothing more than a non-thinking parrot. While a prison might be a profitable endeavor, the Forestry Commission’s work is not. Mr. Findog should get off his rear, go down to Long County, that’s where Ludowici is Mr. Findog, and see about the work the fine employees of the Forestry Commission do there. You’ll find hardworking men and women, who live in the community, and risk their lives for that community.

Clinton "Skink" Tyree

March 25th, 2011
2:53 pm

No one cares until the fire is lapping at their house or threatens to burn their timber. Then the hue and cry for help!

findog

March 25th, 2011
3:08 pm

Well actually jd I’d opt for the good godly unpaid volunteers
But my snarky conservative riff seems to have missed the funny mark

findog

March 25th, 2011
3:12 pm

I’d thought the idiot locator would have been reading this blog for more than 24 minutes and realized that I often parrot the idiotic right
But since we’re at it apparently they don’t work too hard as they have time to blog instead of fighting fires
Good catch

findog

March 25th, 2011
3:14 pm

Why hasn’t the right honorable Governor Deal ask for a presidential declaration so we can get some of that free federal funding like the port dredging boondoggle to pay for these fighters of forest fires?

findog

March 25th, 2011
3:19 pm

Oh snap,
It started as a controlled burn
The government agency asking for money issued the permits for the fires that are out of control
Well if we’re paying only $28k/year I guess we’re getting what we paid for…

GaBlue

March 25th, 2011
3:30 pm

findog,

I got the sarc, hence my loud echo. People are agin’ them evil commie taxes, you know, then get bent all outta shape when the gubmint can’t handle a problem. They defund the goverment, except for the highly-paid gubmint haters they hire to run it (instead of people who want to make it more efficient,) and then screech, “There’s yer proof!” whenever the duties are bungled.

Douglas

March 25th, 2011
4:18 pm

I’d say make the timber owners pay for it, but then thanks to ole Sonny that would be us, so….

td

March 25th, 2011
4:36 pm

I say make the dang professors work 40 hours per week, cut out all the TA positions and send the money to the DNR. You could also cut that additional 2 billion that Obama care is going to cost the state and have a nice fire protection system. You libs refuse to make the hard cuts. All I hear is raise taxes on the rich or corporations (which do not pay taxes).

findog

March 25th, 2011
4:44 pm

td, darling
When are those two-billion dollars that mean old Obama is stealing from Georgia’s general fund hitting the budget?
Making a professor work is going to save money how?
Getting rid of TA’s, so we can reduce the number of classes offered?
You are advocating actually giving money to them tree hugging DNR folk’s, for a nice fire protection system we just defunded?

Better yet, let’s give Georgia-Pacific a big tax cut and that will save THEIR TREES

concerned

March 25th, 2011
5:19 pm

@findog..started not too reply as I know you are probably as entrenched in your position as anyone else. But your comments are way off and you apparently are poorly informed. I don’t want to write a position paper here, but there actually units of the state government that are hurting badly and cannot properly protect the citizenry, nor deliver high quality education opportunities.

Having recently retired from a position that gave me insight at fairly high levels, I can tell you that you are way off. Anyway, must go now, because even with my retirement, I have to work a part-time job to stay even.

pn

March 25th, 2011
5:23 pm

The crazed ideologues who ran (run) this state for the past eight years systematically de-funded the forestry dept. (and agricultural extension services, mental health, the courts, DA;s Offices, public defenders, Veterans homes, DNR programs and oversight, state parks, and public education, etc.etc.) because they are ideologically committed to annihilating government and getting rid of government employees wholesale. This process started LONG before the economic meltdown, and has resulted in Forestry Commission offices closed and downsized almost out of existence. Congratulations guys! This outcome was predictable by anyone with a lick of sense. I read somewhere a few months back that Sen. Tolleson was asking retired firefighters to volunteer their services for free to assist the Forestry Commission, which he himself helped cripple. Good luck with that.

Brenda

March 25th, 2011
5:29 pm

IF we defunded everything…why am I stilll paying taxes?

Last Man Standing

March 25th, 2011
5:42 pm

Idiot Locator Just Went Off:

“Mr. Findog is an idiot, or at least nothing more than a non-thinking parrot.”

If your idiot indicator just went off, it was self-activated. If you had read the blogs here, you wouldn’t be sniping at findog without a posse backing you up. Go away and return when you’re sufficiently educated to post here.

Last Man Standing

March 25th, 2011
5:48 pm

Idiot Locator Just Went Off:

“Long County, that’s where Ludowici is”

There may not even be a fire there. It could just be the smoke from all those speeders going through there since the state shut down their speed trap!

Serious Robuck

March 25th, 2011
6:00 pm

pn, your comment hit the bullseye. The GOP philosophy is to defund government and/or make it dysfunctional by electing or appointing idiots and crooks to run it. Anybody remember Brownie?

Last Man, you’re showing your age. I doubt many here besides you and me remember the Ludowici speed traps. I drive through Long County now several times a year to and from to Ft. Stewart. It’s actually quite a bit nicer now than it used to be.

Last Man Standing

March 25th, 2011
6:04 pm

Serious Robuck:

I’m FEELING my age, and yes, that was a long time ago (in the 60’s)!

td

March 25th, 2011
6:19 pm

pn

March 25th, 2011
5:23 pm

Do you and Serious Robuck realize that we are in the middle of the biggest recession since the great depression? Our revenues went from $22.6 billion to around $18 billion this year. What was the Republicans suppose to do? Not raise taxes.

PN: “systematically de-funded the forestry dept”

Are you trying to tell me that Sonny (the same person that bought up a lot of rural land intentionally de-funded the forestry dept? Why would a person do something like that when it is totally against his own self interest? I think you really need to drop the dem party line and think a little. I hate to defend Sonny (because I thought he was a RINO and a bad governor) but I think he really did all he could do to protect education and Medicaid during the downturn and yes it cost the DHR about 31% of its budget. What did you want him to do cut more in education or Medicaid?

DannyX

March 25th, 2011
6:32 pm

“Are you trying to tell me that Sonny (the same person that bought up a lot of rural land intentionally de-funded the forestry dept? Why would a person do something like that when it is totally against his own self interest?”

Wow, more sarcasm! Love it.

jconservative

March 25th, 2011
7:11 pm

People want government services but do not want to pay for government services.

Strange isn’t it?

Miata

March 25th, 2011
8:04 pm

The same end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it dire warnings that we always hear from recipients of government funding that’s on the chopping block. Once their program is up and running it becomes indispensable to humankind and the taxpayer funded largesse is expected to last forever.

Bobby Anthony

March 25th, 2011
8:42 pm

I think if TD would pay his share of taxes we would not have this problem.

lynnie gal

March 25th, 2011
9:01 pm

If people don’t want government, this is what you get. Nobody’s going to help you–put out a fire at your house, pull you to safety after a flood…the list goes on and on. It’s public employees that do these things for you, folks, and unfortunately, those are the jobs that Republican governors are out to destroy.

PithyWaters

March 25th, 2011
9:06 pm

privatizing – outsourcing to corporations who don’t pay taxes enjoying neither regulation or oversight.

jarnse

March 25th, 2011
10:50 pm

Sorry, my point was I can testify for the work of the firefighters and what the budget cuts have down to their man power and resources.

double

March 26th, 2011
1:10 am

Serious and last man in the early sixties I was caught speeding on the loop around Boston.Policeman takes me to court to face judge.Me having GA. plates and license.I got one heck of lecture about ludowici.He had been caught speeding and fined as he was going to FL.I paid fine and was advised that the money would go to the court.

mehlman rings twice

March 26th, 2011
3:49 am

Now wait just minute here! I just read in the Atlanta Business Chronicle that Georgia was 49th in job growth in 2010. I thought Perdue’s plan for job growth here in Georgia would increase tax revenue over a larger tax base.

Just Jane

March 26th, 2011
5:36 am

Bring the former governer back. Maybe he could pray for money like he prayed for rain during the 09 drought.

catlady

March 26th, 2011
11:00 am

Mehlman–Perdue’s plan worked! We are not number 50 in job growth! If it hadn ‘t been for him, we would have been at the bottom!

statevolunteer

March 27th, 2011
9:22 am

I have been with Georgia Forestry Commission for 24 years- 8 of those years involved no type of pay raises of any kind and 9 furlough days. Every year included health prem. increases.I work weekends,holidays ect… I supervise a county unit with 4 employees and make 26,348. after taxes. We receive NO OVERTIME pay. Never have a had john q public offer to come help rake off the side of rock cliffs, dig in peat duff 14 hrs or any other fireline work. It’s real easy to lump ALL state employees in with over-paid, gold dome idiots that freeload off all of us, but it’s not the case.
The Georgia Forestry Commission is at the bottom of the totem pole.