We just weren’t willing to pay for it.
Long before this month’s historic wildfires in Texas, the state’s forest service came up with a $20.4 million plan to stop the flames from starting or tamp them out before small blazes grew deadly and destructive.
Three years later, the plan is still only half-funded — a result of the weak economy, a strained state budget and what one former lawmaker calls a “dereliction of duty” by legislators who almost always prefer to spend money only after a crisis has unfolded.
The Forest Service concedes that even the full fire-protection system would not have completely spared Texas from last week’s catastrophic fires, which incinerated more than 1,700 homes, blackened tens of thousands of acres and killed four people.
“There’s no way we’ll ever be staffed to handle the worst-case, catastrophic events like you’ve seen recently,” said Robbie DeWitt, chief financial officer of the Forest Service.
But the plan was designed to limit exactly those types of widespread losses — and at a fraction of the price of fighting full-blown fires.
The cost of the fires this year is currently estimated to be about $250 million. Good thing we were so fiscally responsible in the budget, right?
On a tangential note, if you’re tired of reading about droughts and fires, here’s a story about the floods of 1921 in Central Texas to take your mind off of them. It was sent to me by my friend and former history professor, Char Miller. We could use some good hard rains around here, but maybe not quite that much, at least not all at once.