My Agenda wants to beat up your facts

From Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog we find out about a report issued by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform featuring ATR’s Cost of Government estimates. Besides the obviously amusing (i.e. that the cost of government is going up at an impressive rate under George “Fiscal Conservative” Bush) the report chronicles all manners of government evilness, including this tale of government regulations “killing” firemen:

In 2001 four firefighters unnecessarily lost their lives fighting the Thirty Mile Fire in Okanogan National Forest in Winthrop, Washington. The growing inferno had unexpectedly trapped the four firemen. As the firefighters waited for help, a bureaucratic battle got under way on whether using water from the nearby Chewuch River would endanger an EPA-protected fish that inhabited the site. Nine hours after the request, a helicopter dispatch crew was granted permission to use the river. Yet the blaze had grown to such force that an emergency helicopter team was unable to dose the fire and rescue the firemen. Earlier authorization and less regulation perhaps would have saved the firefighters. [Emphasis added.]

Being a curious bunch, we looked up the references given. One is a report published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. The other a newspaper article that quotes the same report. Our old friend LexisNexis provides the rest of the story:

The Columbian (Vancouver, WA.) November 18, 2001:

The government’s recent report on the Thirtymile Fire (link) concedes there was a two-hour delay in getting a helicopter with a water bucket to the fire. …

But even so, the Forest Service report quotes a Sept. 21, 1995, federal directive on endangered species considerations, stating there are “no constraints … if they place firefighters in danger.” [Emphasis added.]

Wait, there’s more:

Seattle Times, August 1, 2001:
“Water can be plucked from a river without permission from wildlife agencies during such an incident” said Elton Thomas, fire management officer for the Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests.”

Oh my, this tends to make the whole story look like a big pile of urban legend poop. Indeed, the claims that there were delays because of EPA regulations appears to be the work of Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., chairman of the House Resources forests subcommittee. What evidence did he offer when making his initial accusation? “Confidential sources.” The claim was later repeated by Trent Matson, a GOP congressional candidate. Did he offer any evidence to support his claims? Sadly, No! The report issued by the Forest Service found (from The Oregonian, September 27, 2001) that:

Confusion among a dispatcher and manager over protected salmon in the Chewuch River delayed a helicopter from dipping water from the river to drop on the blaze for about two hours, the report said. A superior finally cleared the helicopter, which battled the fire for about two hours before the firefighters were trapped and killed.

Tragic as the deaths were, it sounds like lack of information about the content of regulations, rather than the regulations themselves, may deserve part of the blame. More important according to the same report (ibid:)

Some of the firefighters felt so safe as the fatal fire bore down on them, they recalled “hanging out,” “watching the show,” “taking pictures” and writing in their journals when they could have been taking steps to survive what turned into a fiery hell on Earth, investigators said.

Investigators, experts and relatives of those killed were frustrated and dismayed that fire commanders and crews had disregarded all 10 firefighter safety orders and overlooked 10 of 18 red-flag circumstances known to every firefighter as “Watch Out Situations.” They relied on outdated weather forecasts and did not evacuate the dead-end canyon even as others saw the fire flaring out of control, according to the 106-page investigation report released Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service.

Seems a bit more complicated than Grover would have us believe.


Comments: 2


LIFE, not to mention the functioning of the government, is considerably more complicated than Grover’s little mind can comprehend. He wields the hammer of tax reduction against all sorts of problems he thinks are nails, but aren’t.


“hammer of tax reduction against all sorts of problems he thinks are nails, but aren’t”

Either that one or the hammer of Reagan deification.


(comments are closed)