Wildfires Taxing Volunteer Departments

2-20-04 - For the third straight day, grass fires are burning across parts of Texoma. But in addition to claiming hundreds of acres, they’re also burning up the budgets of many volunteer departments.

Over the last two days, an estimated 1,500 acres have burned in Carter County alone, the result of dozens of large and small fires. The county has twelve volunteer fire departments, which all work together to battle the blazes. But yesterday, the county faced four large fires burning at one time, which spread equipment and manpower extremely thin.

The volunteer firefighters aren't paid, but county funds are spent each time these departments are activated. Simply put, more fires mean more money being burned. Dickson Fire Chief Troy Duke says “We have limited resources to begin with, and most of that goes to the purchase of equipment, so when we have areas and times of heavy use, and heavy fire loads, that's when we make a lot of runs and it does tax our monthly income."

The volunteer fire departments across much of Texoma work on a mutual aid agreements, meaning they respond to fires in other fire districts. Most rely on donations and community support to keep fighting fires.