Was Arizona Just Plain Not Prepared? For Forest Fire?

by jhwygirl

Arizona’s is having a bit of a fire season down there. Not unusual for the state, really – Arizona has forests. It burns. Really, it should be prepared.

The fires they has going there are apparently stretching the resources of the state, having surpassed a cost of $3 million.

$3 million? Montana can spend that on a 4th of July weekend on a bad year.

Governor Jan Brewer said yesterday that “officials have so far spent some $3 million on efforts to put out the blaze and that she would consider asking the state or federal governments for help if the situation gets worse.”

Montana – even with this last tough legislative session – came out with a budget that includes $23 million for fire fighting efforts (with other funding in there for other emergency management items) for the next two years. Page C-10 of HB2.

I couldn’t find anything on the state’s website regarding fire-fighting costs (more my fault, I’m sure….it’s gotta be there somewhere – I searched the legislative audit stuff), but I did find this report from Headwaters Ecology which shows that just the home-related suppression costs on many recent fires (see page 12) surpasses the $3 million mark.

Montana undoubtedly got help from the feds…I do realize that happens on bad years – but it’s something that happens only for the worse fires, and only after Montana has surpassed its resources.

So if Arizona is busted on wildfire fighting as the bill approaches $3 million, I have to wonder if it was even prepared for something they reasonably should have known was going to happen?

Texas has been denied FEMA assistance for its fires this year. It has gotten money, but not the blanket funding they were looking for on costs that were at $54 million and rising.

Cruel, right? Texas is working on passing a budget that slashes $34 million to its own state fire agency. That’s one third of that agency’s budget.

Texas has forest and scrub land. It burns. Year after year. Nothing different there than Montana or Arizona or anywhere in the west.

Difference is, they seem to be expecting the feds – i.e., you and me – to pick up the tab for their disasters…the ones that they can’t seem to prepare for by providing some reasonable and prudent funding.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) is, of course, whining.

Perhaps he hasn’t heard GOP darling and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor say that the only funding the U.S. is going to see for disasters like the historic tornadoes we’ve seen will be offset by cuts elsewhere. Cantor was real comfortable as he said that last Sunday to Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation.

Both Texas and Arizona, it seems to me, have given up on preparing themselves for disasters that they really should be prepared for. Can’t just cut these budgets for things that you know are likely to happen and then whine when the feds deny you FEMA assistance.

Where I see Montana taking a hit – and haven’t seen much on actual cost estimates yet – is the flooding out east…and not really just east, as Judith Basin and Lewistown is seeing some crazy stuff too. The kind of flooding we are seeing this year will historically sit in the top 10 list for many areas…and higher for others.

Without a doubt, the historic flooding we’ve seen has exceeded anything we’ve set aside.


  1. Kirsten

    I just read the article and watched the video contained therein.

    Where do you see something that says that Arizona’s wildfire fighting budget is running out? All I see is that the governor is considering asking the federal government for financial assistance, which is not the same thing.

    You might ask the federal government for assistance just because you think you can get money, because you are spending state resources protecting federal land, etc.- not necessarily because you are running out of money.

    • Gov. Jan Brewer states that the state has spent $3 million and she was now considering asking the feds and the state itself for more money.

      Montana has budgeted $23 million for the next two years.

      How does that compare?

      Arizona is only spending its money on its fires – no the ones under the fed jurisdiction.

      If she’s whining about a $3 tab in a state that has wildfires year after year – then her state wasn’t prepared adequately. They underfunded themselves…just like Texas did..and is still planning on doing.

      • Kirsten

        Spending $3 million does not mean that the budget is only $3 million or even close to it. It means that $3 million is being spent. That is all.

        Further, nothing I saw in the article indicates that she is whining about a $3 million tab for STATE problems, but rather about spending $3 million of STATE money on a FEDERAL problem. And when you look at it that way, it’s not so clearly a matter of “whining” as doing due diligence for the state’s taxpayers in considering having the responsible landowner- the federal government- start paying its fair share.

  2. Great post, girl. Kinda exonerates Senator Tester, innit? More.

  3. Kirsten

    they seem to be expecting the feds – i.e., you and me – to pick up the tab for their disasters

    Also, how is the Wallow/Alpine fire Arizona’s disaster? As best I can tell, the Alpine fire originated in the Apache National Forest, which is federal property, making it the federal government’s disaster. Specifically, Inciweb states that the fire originated between the town of Alpine, AZ and Big Lake. Plot those up on Google Maps and that is clearly located in the Apache National Forest.

    Do you and I expect Arizona to pick up the tab for “our” disaster?

    • Kirsten – there is preparedness base on a reasonably expected outcome, and there’s throwing caution to the wind.

      I’m suggesting that Arizona and Texas both threw caution to the wind. It wasn’t a very prudent or conservative thing to do.

      From all appearances, neither state was adequately prepared. Did this affect their initial attack capabilities on fire? Preventative thinning of fire load? Patrol and helicopter flights to check lightening strikes for smoker-starters?

      I’d suggest that if the budget was that thin – that $3 million is cause for concern – that those were likely other choices that were made prior to whatever it is they have burning down there.

      Also – I know nothing about the fire you mention – all I know is that Arizona has spent $3 of its money on fires. Feds have to pay to protect their lands. So yes – taxpayers you and I will be picking up on that stuff.

      • Kirsten

        If you don’t know anything about the fire I mentioned, then go back and read the first article you linked to in this post. I really think you are misinformed on this particular point, and reading your own source will help clear this up.

        It does not say that Arizona has spent $3 million of its money on fires. It says that Arizona has spent $3 million of its money on THIS fire- in a portion of the article that you specifically quoted directly after your link.

        THIS fire is specifically a fire located within the Apache National Forest, originating between the town Alpine, AZ and Big Lake. This is well inside the borders of federal land designated as the Apache National Forest, making it a FEDERAL responsibility that the STATE is apparently paying for. This is not a matter of the state not being prepared as you are portraying it, but rather a matter of the state handling a federal problem on its own nickel because the federal government isn’t taking care of its own business.

        • Origination isnt’ the sole designator of responsibility. the USFS won’t go for fighting homes – state’s are typically pulled into that since that kind of development occurs on private lands.

          People that have cabins on USFS lands are told right up that their leases will not be protected at any great cost or effort.

          Brewer is complaining about having to protect homes – which is likely their responsibility since the USFS doesn’t do that. That’s what I get out of it.

          • Kirsten

            I wish you would stop making things up. Point to anything in that article or any other article you can find where Brewer specifically complains about protecting homes. Anything indicating that the money she is considering asking for from the federal government is specifically for protecting homes. Anything indicating that the $3 million dollars spent so far on this fire has all gone toward protecting homes while the federal government has paid for its own land to be protected. Please. Anything.

            I understand that you have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to Arizona. So do I. I lived there for 35 years before I finally couldn’t take it anymore for the disgusting police state it has become. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Arizona and Jan Brewer in particular. This- as far as the evidence we have so far goes- is simply not one of them.

            • Kirsten

              Per the map in this article from yesterday, the entire fire appears to be contained withing the Apache National Forest boundaries, with the possibility of spreading to New Mexico, the Fort Apache Reservation, and the San Carlos Reservation. Except for a few towns which may be considered under state rather than federal jurisdiction (not sure how that works), and possibly Arizona highway 261, it looks to me like there is almost certainly nothing today in the footprint of this fire that is the state’s responsibility.

            • Kirsten

              Reading the article I just linked to a little further, it does specifically say that Hannagan Meadow is Forest Service, i.e. federal and not state, land. That appears to leave just possibly Alpine, Big Lake that could be state jurisdiction, and for sure Arizona highway 261.

            • what am I missing? Does the CNN article not talk about residents being evacuated, homes being threatened and outbuildings being lost?

              I have no chip on my shoulder with regards to Arizona per se – I have a chip on my shoulder about conservatives who go championing how solvent their state is and how financially responsible they are and then you hear about ridiculous cuts and expectations like this.

              Or did you miss the whole Texas part in there too?

              • Kirsten

                Fine. The chip on your shoulder is about conservatives not taking financial responsibility. But if that’s true, then why are you bagging on Arizona when there is no evidence that this is a case of that? You seem to be trying very hard to piece highly sketchy circumstantial evidence and stuff you’ve simply made up together into an anti-Arizona case where none exists.

                What you are missing, as I keep pointing out, is that nowhere does the article indicate (a) that the $3 million dollars is all or nearly all of the state budget for wildfire fighting, (b) that the $3 million dollars is all or nearly all being spent on state responsibilities or even on saving homes, or (c) that Brewer is anywhere complaining about spending state dollars on saving homes in its jurisdiction.

                Rather, it possible, quite likely even, that a lot of this STATE money is being spent to cover FEDERAL responsibilities. If this is the case, this means that (a) this is not ridiculous whining or trying to get someone else to cover their responsibilities but rather trying to get some reimbursement for covering someone ELSE’S responsibilities, and (b) your real beef sould be with the Obama administration.

      • Kirsten

        For clarity, I meant to add that this specific fire is commonly being referred to in the press as the Alpine fire, but it is listed on Inciweb as the Wallow fire. They do appear to be one and the same fire, though.

    • Thanks Larry – quite timely.

      Rehberg does love his government welfare, too, when he can get it. That goes for using the courts. He’s all for tort reform until he has some sort of loss that he wants reimbursed.

  4. ladybug

    Not prepared. Not preparing. Not even acknowledging the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Climate change is way bigger than any state, or national strategy is capable of handling alone. It’s a charging global nightmare kicking ass in more states than Arizona. When an ostrich has it’s head buried, can it not feel its ass being kicked?




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