Fort Worth, Texas – As the Texas Forest Service battles what may be the state’s most destructive wildfire outbreak ever, state lawmakers are facing criticism that they have taken a penny-wise-pound-foolish approach to funding the agency.
Texas is one of the few states that rely primarily on volunteer fire departments to protect rural areas from wildfires. About 330 firefighters with the forest service traditionally serve as a second tier of defense when such fires get larger than the local department can handle.
The Legislature cut the agency’s funding this year to $83 million from $117 million, according to Robby DeWitt, the forest service’s associate finance director.
Chris Barron, executive director of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas, said: “It’s very frustrating that they don’t have the proper tools and resources to fight these fires. If fire departments had enough funding, if the forest service had enough funding, we wouldn’t be in this predicament over each and every year.”
The issue is drawing more attention in part because of the sheer scope of the Central Texas wildfire, which has destroyed more than 1,500 homes and killed at least two people.
Yemeni forces oust militants in south
Sanaa, Yemen – Yemeni security forces drove al-Qaida-linked militants out of part of a southern city they have held for nearly four months, a military official said, in the first significant victory against the fighters.
Months of ground battles and airstrikes have failed to shake the city of Zinjibar and another town out of the hands of Islamic militants who overran them in April and May.
The fighters, some suspected of links to Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, swept into the area while President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government had its attention elsewhere, trying to crush massive street protests calling for the longtime leader’s ouster.
The government said in an official statement Saturday that it had retaken all of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. But a military official disputed that, saying only an eastern section was under government control.