Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release:
January 12, 2006
Senator Rabon chairs the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Natural
Regulatory Services hearing on wildfires Tuesday.
Rabon Says Supplemental Appropriation Needed for Firefighting Costs
Jeff Rabon said testimony at Thursday’s meeting of the
Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Natural Resources and Regulatory
Services points to the need for a supplemental appropriation to
help the Department of Agriculture and Rural Fire Departments across
the state with the continued cost of fighting wildfires.
“My conversations with the Governor’s staff and the
Secretary of Finance is this is no different than a mud slide or
flood or tornado...it’s a disaster nonetheless and those things
cost money,” said Rabon, D-Hugo.
“Senate Democrats led the push to increase funding for our
rural fire departments last year – and the state is in the
process of getting them the balance of their Fiscal Year 2006 operational
grants. But it’s going to take much more than that.
We’re committed to making sure they get the funds they need
to continue fighting these wildfires,” said Rabon.
John Burwell of the Forestry division of the Department of Agriculture
said that as of the end of December, 97 percent of the division’s
budget had been spent.
“We are flat busted as a division. We found it necessary
to borrow money from the upcoming budget in order to write checks
to the fire departments so they can just keep running this year,”
said Burwell. “This situation is not only affecting
our agency but it’s also affecting the fire departments in
a huge way. They’re going to need a quick fix in order to
sustain their operations for the rest of this fiscal year.”
Rabon said that even though the federal emergency declaration would
clear the way for funding, the bills are due now.
“We’re the ones that are going to have to come up with
ways to give firefighters, Forestry, rural fire departments and
volunteers the tools they need and those tools cost money,”
said Rabon, who added that the state’s Rainy Day contained
$462 million dollars. “My goodness, what’s it
for if not for this?”
As of November 1, more than 380,000 acres and more than 200 homes
and businesses had been destroyed.
Rabon said it was important for people to realize that the crisis
is not over. With significant precipitation in the forecast,
more fires are likely.
“In the meantime however, I would make a personal plea for
everyone in the state to continue to observe the burn ban and to
report anyone violating that ban,” said Rabon. The statewide
hotline for reporting violators is 1-800-522-8666.
For more information contact:
Senator Jeff Rabon's Office- (405) 521-5614