Fire Departments Might Get Federal Financial Help

11-29-05 - The fire danger now means budget danger for local fire departments, but relief may be on the way.

For the past three days, volunteer fire departments like Lone Grove have been trying to put out wildfires all over Carter and Stephens counties, and the operation costs are starting to add up.

So far, the grass fire in the Fox-Graham area has burned around 2,500 acres. Along with it, all of their budget on gas and parts of their equipment.

By the time the department gets the fire out, the chief says they may be in the hole around $100,000, and in Velma, that number is three times that.

Now Governor Henry as issued a Wildfire Emergency Declaration to request future federal dollars if it's needed.

"We need to recover all the expenses we can," Fox-Graham Fire Chief Rudy Stewart said. "It will take part of that burden off of us down the road when it comes to equipment maintenance."

But officially declaring the wildfires a state disaster to get federal funds is a long way off. The state emergency management office says first all the fires need to be put out and the damage dollars totaled.

So far those wildfires have burned over 50,000 acres around the state including around 50 structures.