BRYAN COUNTY, OK -- One of the hot issues on the ballot in Bryan County is a tax increase to fund fire departments. Of Bryan County's 18 Fire departments 17 are volunteer. Crews say after last summer's wildfires their budgets have dried up and tell us if the quarter percent sales tax increase does not pass at least four departments might be forced to shut down.
Freeny Valley Fire Chief Don Singleton says during last summer's drought they fought fires for two weeks straight.
"Boy that two weeks was rough I mean you know we went everyday there and we spent a chunk of money on fuel and tires, buy hoses and reels," Singleton said.
Singleton says each year they get $4,000 dollars from the state for operations and they burned right through that money fighting dozens of fires. He says if the tax increase does not pass and they see another wildfire season like the last then they may not be able to stay afloat.
"We got one good brush truck and we got a good tanker the rest of them every time you run you work on them. So you know, and a lot of the time it gets down to where a lot of it comes out of our pocket so it would help greatly," Singleton said.
Calera Assistant Fire Chief Brian Norton says if the measure does pass it would cost each person an average of $20 dollars per year and all 18 fire departments in the county would get anywhere from $50,000 - $70,000 dollars each year to go toward equipment and training.
"We have departments where they guys don't even have PPE. They don't have bunker gear they don't have wild wind gear they don't have helmets they don't have gloves," Norton said.
Norton says if the tax increase is not approved and departments are forced to shut down then insurance premiums could end up costing residents more in the end.
"They're based on the loss inside the zip codes and so if response times increase because this fire department closed down and a neighboring fire department has to respond it's going to increase the loss," Norton said.
Norton says if the tax sales resolution passes it would be a win win for everyone involved.
"It's a tax that says we're going to protect the citizens of Bryan County and we just want the materials and the equipment and the training to be able to return their $20 dollar investment," Norton said.
Norton says EMS could be hurt too if the tax increase does not pass because most firefighters also volunteer as medics.
For more detailed information about this measure visit http://www.bcfirechief.org/.