Funding cuts felt by Texas volunteer firefighters

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The director of the Texas Forest Service says budget cuts that slashed annual state grants for volunteer firefighters by $18 million since 2009 have had "a huge impact" on fighting wildfires.

Testifying before the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security on Tuesday, Tom Boggus said yearly grants to volunteer firefighters have fallen from $25 million as recently 2009 to $7 million today.

He said, "it's a huge impact."

Boggus said there are about 35,000 volunteer firefighters across the state who generally respond to at least 90% of all Texas blazes.

He said authorities have ensured that state money for training and protective gear for volunteers has remained stable.

Instead, Boggus said they have absorbed the budget shortfalls by cutting back on equipment.

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