Editorial: Cuts in Safety to Save Money Is No Bargain

Is the Kern County Board of Supervisors Gambling with Public Safety?

The Kern County Board of Supervisors has so far rejected requests by fire department officials for full crews and staffing to operate both of the county’s firefighting helicopters, and for hand crews to reduce hazardous fuels. Only partial helicopter crews have been approved.

Last month the president of the Mt. Pinos Fire Safe Council, Janine Tominaga sent a letter to Fire Chief Nick Dunn (also ccd to the Board of Supervisors), expressing serious concern over the apparent decision to cut the county’s firefighting helicopter crews, and to decrease the availability of hand crews for work on the ground.

“These crews have been the core of hazardous fuels reduction projects, financed by federal grants acquired by our Fire Safe Council. If we don’t get crews, and soon, they won’t be available to fight fires…and…they won’t be available…to work on the many grant-funded projects in the county,” she wrote.

A hand crew has since been made partially available, but according to fire department officials, is not able to accomplish what needs to be done.

Nobody disagrees that the economy has affected the supervisors’ ability to fund many important programs. But with fuels growing higher this year due to increased rainfall, cutting back on firefighting resources at the risk of lives and property in the county’s outlying areas is the wrong decision.

Reducing hazardous fuels is far cheaper than fighting catastrophic wildfires, especially when federal money has already been provided for such projects.

The Board of Supervisors should recognize that hiring full crews immediately will reduce dangerous fuels and use these federal funds as they were intended.

This is part of the May 28, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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