STURGIS, Miss. (WCBI)- The Forestry Commission is one of the latest agencies in the state to feel the budget ax.
State lawmakers cut the agency’s budget by 16%, which is roughly $2.67 million.
“It’s my understanding that Oktibbeha County is going to be less some personnel that we had prior to the cuts,” said Chief Greg Wall, Sturgis Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department.
Wall said it was this past Tuesday when he found out the news about the cuts being made to the Mississippi Forestry Commission.
“Our equipment, especially here in Oktibbeha County, is designed to protect the structures,” Wall explained. “Protect homes, businesses, we don’t have the equipment to get out and fight wildfires like the forestry commission.”
The fire chief understands the vital role the agency plays when it comes to assisting volunteer fire departments.
“We had a situation here in late March of this year.” Wall recalled. “The grass was dry. We had three forest fires in the same day, and we had to call the forestry commission three times to come in and plow a lane around the track to help us contain the fire.”
A total of 75 jobs are going to be eliminated due to the cuts. Twewnty-five of them being on the administration level, and the other 50 being in the field.
“I’m concerned that the forestry commission with 50 less people across the state, they’re going to have less personnel to send to the tracks to help us fight these wild land fires,” the fire chief said.
The cuts are also forcing the commission to reorganize and consolidate districts, going from seven to four.
This means if a massive fire breaks out, responders could have to travel across several counties before getting to the blaze.
“If they’re coming from a further distance away, or if there are few were to respond, I can’t help but to think that the fire will be larger before they arrive on the scene,” said Wall.
The cuts will go into effect July…