WASHINGTON -- In Texas, firefighters aren't just battling the wild fires raging around Austin and Houston. The state's first responders have also had to deal with budget cuts affecting everything from fuel purchases to hoses and oxygen tanks. In some cases, fire officials say, firefighters have had to pay out of pocket for basic necessities like proper protective gear and fuel to get them to the scene. One fire department that battled the blazes in Bastrop County had to pay for a hose, recalled Bastrop City Fire Chief Henry Perry, speaking to The Huffington Post during a break from working the wild fires.
"That fire department has been on this fire every day," he said. "Before this fire, they were having to buy stuff out of their own pocket." Perry said he knows of at least one other department whose firemen had to pay for equipment maintenance and engine fuel.
Earlier this week, HuffPost reported that Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP front-runner for president, had signed off on millions in firefighting cuts as part of the state's most recent budget legislation. The Texas Forest Service's funding has gone from $117.7 million in the 2010-2011 budget years to $83 million in the 2012-2013 budget years.
Severe cuts have also hit assistance grants to volunteer fire departments throughout Texas. The grants decreased from $30 million per year in 2010 and 2011 to $13.5 million per year in 2012 and 2013. These are cuts that firemen are now dealing with.
"I don't agree with it. I understand what Governor Perry did," said Henry Perry (no relation). "Do I like it? No. I don't like it at all."
The cuts come at a time when Texas fire departments have already been slowing purchases of new fire trucks and other critical equipment as a way to save money, said Guy Turner, president of the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters.
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