Proposed state cuts to impact Florida Forest Service

By Leah Masuda, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, April 14, 2017, 4:27 PM EDT

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Tuesday because of so many fires burning statewide. However, his budget for this year calls for $50 million in cuts to the Florida Forest Service.

  • Proposed state cuts to impact Florida Forest Service
  • FL Forest Service to lose resources that fight wildfires
  • Local fire rescues left to handle daily calls and wildfires
  • More Florida brushfire coverage

Several brush fires started this week in Pasco County. The fire in Hudson destroyed property and got into residents’ backyards.

“Having all those resources luckily here in the county, we had four or five tractors that were able to peel off and come over there real fast, that kept that fire at only 18 acres," said Pasco County Fire Rescue Division Chief Shawn Whited.

Whited said without those resources, homes could have been lost. That’s why he’s concerned with the proposed cuts to the Florida Forest Service.

“If they did budget cuts we would have to wait even longer times for those resources to get into our area or not get those resources at all and just rely on the local fire departments to handle those fires," said Whited.

Pasco Fire Rescue has 525 people at the department. That may sound like a lot but it’s not enough to respond to day to day calls and work wildfires.

“We can't just throw 525 people at this fire, we still have to answer all those calls for service, all those medical calls, car accidents, structure fires, house fires," said Whited.

The county estimated about $10,000 was spent on overtime this week.

$35 million of the $50 million proposed cut for the state would be for land acquisition -- however there are cuts to additional staff.