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Privatizing Firefighters: Should We be Concerned?

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AP Photo/The Los Angeles Times, Spencer Weiner

Blackwater might be a more appropriate name for the future of some private firefighting business. Robert at Calitics has been looking into federal firefighter shortages during the recent spate of wildfires (over 1700 in total since June 20). He reports that there have been "deliberate staffing shortages have left the USFS [US Forest Service] unable to do vital off-season brush clearance, and left them without the staffing to get a quick jump on fires in their crucial initial stages."

Add to that lower comparable wages and failed recruitment ("only 186 of the agency's 276 engines were manned at the start of the 2008 fire season").

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Where is all this leading? "[President George] Bush is trying to destroy a government agency in order to turn it over to private contractors... destroying public firefighting and leaving folks to fend for themselves on the private market is a core conservative goal. Private military contractors rightly scare us, but private firefighting should be even more frightening -- what incentive would they have to protect the homes of the poor?"