SHERWOOD SHORES, TX-The worst wildfire season in Texas history could soon get worse for area firefighters. Volunteer fire departments, which cover 75 percent of the state, are about to lose much of their funding. Victoria Maranan tells us why.
Texas legislators decided to cut 75 percent of the Texas Forest Service's grant funding from $23 million down to $7 million a year. That money is used for training and equipment and without it, local volunteer fire departments are worried about how they'll keep their firefighters safe.
"We've had more grassfires than in the past this year. This year we are going further and staying longer."
Sherwood Shores volunteer fire chief Don Burcham said it's been a very busy summer for them responding to fires like the one on Highway 289 and the Hagerman wildlife refuge. He said, volunteer firefighters are feeling the pinch of state budget cuts.
The Texas Forest Service, lost $16 million dollars in grant funding this year, which means local volunteer firefighters are battling massive fires using old, outdated equipment.
"A lot of people are having to cut back on everything and it does hurt us some. We have to look at other places and other sources for training, equipment," he said.
"I think that the budget situation is pretty dire and every state agency did take cuts to grants program."
Linda Moon, with the Texas Forest Service, says they have to weigh their priorities when giving out grants.
"The impact probably is going to hit on heavy operating equipment like fire trucks. The $7 million a year will be prioritized to safety and training, rather than vehicles," she said.
Burcham said while they need a new brush truck, it'll have to wait. The need for new protective gear is immediate because bunker gear needs to be replaced every eight years and most of his firefighters were long overdue for new sets.
"Right now, we're trying to get bunker gear and S.C.B.A.'s, self contained breathing apparatus. Right now we're having some borrowed from another agency, it's getting to the point when we're going to have to bring those back," he said.
Burcham said, they will need the community's help to keep on operating.
"We have a lot of fundraisers here and our community supports us in everything we do, so we're looking to them to take up some of the slack we'll lose from the forest service," he said.
The Sherwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department also needs your help. They need bottled water, Gatorade and high-carb snacks.
If you would like to donate, you can call them at (903)523-5034. Or drop them off at the fire station:
Sherwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department
364 Hillcrest Circle