On June 30, 2013, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots wildfire crew perished in the Yarnell Fire in northern Arizona. As you probably know, an investigation is underway to determine the events that led to their deaths. But one fact is already clear: The wildfire crews were stretched thin and firefighting resources have been dramatically reduced by federal budget cuts.
According to Sen. John McCain, air tankers have been reduced from 42 to 10. He also estimated that a $115 million budget cut would result in roughly 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines despite the fact that western states are experiencing a rise in wildfires.
The day of the loss of the Yarnell 19, resources had been diverted to another wildfire near Kingman, Arizona. At the same time, there were major fires in Colorado, Nevada and Utah.
Unfortunately, this event demonstrates that budget cuts have real consequences. Especially big, dumb, across-the-board cuts like those resulting from sequestration. We should all remember that the federal budget isn’t just about taxes and money. It’s about services, resources and American lives.
The Yarnell 19 are a prime example.