Small Oklahoma fire departments feeling budget heat
Weather conditions, number of calls causing budget problems for small fire departments in Oklahoma.
This year's drought and heat wave have taken a toll not only on the land, but on fire department
Oklahoma has 880 rural and volunteer fire departments. Last year, 400 former Department of Defense vehicles were turned into tanker trucks and brush pumpers, according to Gary Williams, Oklahoma Department of Forestry rural fire staff forester. The vehicles are allocated on a rotational basis each year according to need, he said.
Rural fire departments also get annual operational grants. For the fiscal years 2011 and 2012, a little over $3.8 million in grants has been authorized. That breaks down to about $4,300 per department, according to the forestry service. The grant amount is down from $4.5 million in 2008 and 2009, and about $4.3 million in 2010.
“Any time that we have an extended fire season like this, it really starts to drain a fire department's resources,” said Mark Goeller, assistant director of Oklahoma Forestry
“Our call volume is probably about 30 percent over our average. It's really taking a toll on us,” said Mike Karlin, Weatherford's assistant fire chief and emergency manager. His department is a mix of paid firefighters and volunteers and also receives city taxes.
“We're probably running 30 percent more than we run normally, and it may be 50 percent more. It's not so much the number of the fires, but the
His department also gets money from the city, but relies on donations from the city and bills residents when they go out to fight a fire.
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