At a time when agency budgets are strained and the mood of taxpayers tends toward further tax cuts, many fire prevention programs are seeing budgets slashed, or even facing outright elimination. The problem is not waste or mismanagement, it is the fact that fires are costing more to put out. Fire seasons start earlier and last longer, and extreme drought grips large portions of already fire-prone areas like California, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas.
NBC News reports, “Fire and land management officials are warning that more firefighters will be in danger, and more homes will be burned, if the nation continues to spend more on putting out forest fires while spending less on preventing them. But federal officials, while acknowledging the danger, say firefighting efforts are costing so much that they’re leaving less money for prevention.”
Prevention runs the gamut from fuels reduction projects to fire prevention education. While Cal Fire’s VIP (Volunteers in Prevention) teams have achieved 50% reductions in child-related fires in areas where they have provided fire education to grades K-3rd, it still takes funding to run such programs. Volunteers are not enough. Training, supervisory staff, materials – all of these things cost money. And the critical component to reducing the damage of wildfires, whether human-caused or natural, is fuels reduction projects. These are often huge undertakings, taking a decade or more to complete. They require specialists and trained personnel to carry out the many facets of the work.
We at Fight the Fire are trying to do our part to help prevent wildfires, and we believe strongly that a game can do good. It can increase awareness and prompt people to act to protect their homes and families from wildfire. But all the games in the world, and all the hundreds of of thousands of hours spent by volunteers across the country in educating the public, can do little to stop the destruction if our representatives fail to act. In the face of a warming globe and severe droughts , they must ensure that those projects that can make the most impact get done. Otherwise, more lives and homes will go up in smoke and we will look back someday to see that we have been penny wise, but pound foolish.